Johnson City Press Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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Apartment complex near ETSU OK’d

January 2nd, 2014 9:42 pm by Gary B. Gray

Apartment complex near ETSU OK’d

Rendering of The Franklin (Contributed)


North Carolina’s Coal Yard Restoration and the City Commission came to terms Thursday on an amended development agreement for construction of The Franklin, a four-story, 60-unit apartment complex at 1150 W. State of Franklin Road.


The Franklin will sit near the Millennium Centre between Elizabethton Federal Savings Bank and University Parkway and provide student housing for East Tennessee State University in the form of 52, two-bedroom units and eight, three-bedroom units. 


Commissioners approved half of a two-part request by the developer.


The first part of the request asked that the developer be allowed to move the building closer to West State of Franklin, remove lower-level parking, reduce the total number of bedrooms from 120 to 96 and add a fire lane in front of the building.


Commissioners were OK with these changes, but expressed concerns about entrances and exits for both the bank and the apartment complex that are positioned very close to each other. In the end, architect Ken Ross agreed with commissioners that the matter would be tended to if it became a problem.


The second part didn’t fly.


“The owner said yes to making 80 percent of the building brick when the original agreement was made,” Ross said. “In the meantime, the city developed an overlay district along State of Franklin which requires the exterior of buildings be 70 percent brick, or decorative rock or stone. That’s what we were asking for, because time is money, and building materials are expensive.”


Commissioner Jeff Banyas made a motion to accept the amended plan on the condition that the second part of the request be denied. It passed in a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Jenny Brock voting to allow the second request.


“This predates my time on the City Commission,” said Commissioner David Tomita. “I think it’s just bad timing. I apologize, but I’m just uncomfortable with it.”


Ross said the developer would like to finish the project in August, be he did not have price tag on the project.


ETSU used to store its coal at this location until its use at public universities was discontinued under former Gov. Phil Bredesen. The state sold the property to the developer about two years ago, but company officials have not disclosed the amount paid for the 1.7 acres. The agreement spells out that the state and the developer have “yet to close the transaction that would convey the property.”  


The Raleigh-based company first requested a rezoning of the property from I-2 (Heavy Industrial) to B-3 (Supporting Central Business) in November 2011, and a development agreement between the developer and the city was signed in January 2012.


A concept plan was not required at the time, because there was no area surrounding the property zoned residential. Neither was the developer’s request required to go before the planning commission, because it was a direct agreement between the applicant and the City Commission.     


The site, however, is impacted by the Brush Creek flood plain and requires the developer to adhere to the city’s floodplain and stormwater detention regulations. This prompted Johnson City’s Ken Ross Architects Inc. to move the building closer to West State of Franklin, setting it at a higher elevation, and Coal Yard Restoration Manager Marquis Eric Brinker requested the amendments to the agreement.


“We reduced the number of apartments, and that gave us some additional space,” Ross said. “The development is partially in the flood plain, and we did find a place to store water. We also reworked the exterior.”


Public Works Director Phil Pindzola said the plan took a while to develop, but it did not fall through.


“They’re going to use our property on Walnut Street,” Pindzola said. “They’ll clear it and use it as a water detention facility, and that will be a plus for the community.”


In other business, commissioners:


n Approved a roughly $40,000 appropriation to Frontier Health to match the $83,750 awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to fund a mental health and substance abuse grant.


The money will go toward treatment of children from kindergarten through the fourth grade at Mountain View Elementary School who are diagnosed with mental, emotional or behavioral problems. 


The funds also will be used to increase community awareness about childhood mental health needs and to educate the public about the importance of effectively responding early to children’s needs. 


n Approved a $12,644 proposal from Shaw & Shanks Architects for design services for construction of about 10,000 square feet of aluminum canopies/covers for sidewalks at Science Hill High School. The architect will work with city officials to select a contractor, prepare agreements and provide construction administration.


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