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Mill development delayed again

March 18th, 2014 10:51 pm by Nathan Baker

Mill development delayed again

(Photo by Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)

Despite insistence last week that it would proceed Thursday, the third reading of Evolve Development’s rezoning request for the State of Franklin property where it intends to build a five-building apartment complex won’t be heard until the Johnson City Commission’s April 3 meeting.

Tom McKee, the North Carolina company’s legal counsel, said the reading is now postponed until after the April 1 Board of Zoning Appeals meeting, where Evolve’s representatives hope to secure a variance allowing the construction of parking spaces between some of the complex’s buildings and State of Franklin Road.

McKee, a Johnson City attorney, said the company finalized development agreement as recommended stipulating the amount of brick on the exterior of the buildings before a Monday workshop with city leaders, but some of the commissioners wanted a site plan to be part of the total package, which won’t be available until after the variance hearing.

If the BZA approves Evolve’s proposal, the company’s plan will include a 400-space parking lot for residents, buffered from the surrounding roads and properties by rolling earthen berms.

“Whatever is required, that’s what they’re doing,” McKee said Tuesday. “The Tree Streets have significant problems with parking, because they’re so narrow, and there are a number of student apartments there now, so people park on the street. Some of the residents wanted a plan that did not make that situation worse than already is, and I think they should be able to do that.”

At the Commission’s second reading of Evolve’s zoning proposal, a slew of residents and business owners near the former Model Mill site and Mize Farm & Garden Supply property where the company hopes to built 216 units of multi-family housing turned out to oppose the development, saying the influx of hundreds of new tenants could increase traffic and crime along Walnut Street and the surrounding neighborhood.

They pointed to a late-in-the-game announcement from the company that the rooms would be leased by the bedroom, which they said was indicative of student housing, not the young families and business professionals originally promised by the builder.

McKee said the individual leasing option could mean college student renters, but said the upscale complex is still targeted at families.

Plus, Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Gary Mabrey said, Evolve’s plan has been the most promising for the century old mill site since the Chamber Foundation took ownership of it in 2008.

“The Chamber’s interest is in the community and in our members,” Mabrey said Friday. “We’re interested in doing what’s right with the project, and we’re comfortable that this is the right use of the land at this time.”

If the complex is approved by the BZA and the Commission, Mabrey said the developer could close on the land very quickly, then the Chamber could begin looking for a new office location, which the mill was at one time supposed to provide.

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