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Local News

No restraints: Commission to rule on Villas plan

July 20th, 2011 10:46 pm by Gary B. Gray

The restraining order that on June 2 halted the City Commission from taking action on a third reading of developer Mitch Cox’s request for concept plan and rezoning of the 62-unit Villas at Towne Acres has been dropped.
This means tonight’s vote seals the deal.
The restraining order, issued by Washington County Chancery Court Judge G. Richard Johnson just hours before that June meeting, never made it to a courtroom. Neither did the charge of breach of contract. That claim was made by disgruntled property owners living near the planned complex who say Cox and Johnson City both made a verbal agreements to build high-end office space and high-quality condominiums at the intersection of Peoples Street and Sharon Drive.
Citing a demand for residential structures fitting the medium density zoning requirement, Cox has gone forward with plans for “luxury” town homes instead.
Attorneys representing Cox, Johnson City and more than 30 plaintiffs trying to stop or at least modify the plan have negotiated a deal that was finalized Monday. The civil action, filed by Shannon McCool, the principal complainant, is no more. But McCool is anything but cool with the way things have turned out.
“We were scheduled to go in front of the judge Monday,” McCool said. “That was driven by attorneys for Mr. Cox and the city. They were demanding a surety bond, because they said Mr. Cox was losing money because the project wasn’t going forward. It looks like certain people are hell bent on preserving maximum flexibility for the city and developers.”
McCool said Cox has made some “concessions” that include modifying the construction of the two three-story buildings (garage, first floor, second floor) to two-story structures as well as adding higher quality fencing.
On May 19, commissioners voted to move the concept plan to a third reading in order for Cox to come back with revisions. Commissioners approved a second reading to rezone about 2.5 acres from PB (Planned Business) to R-4 (Medium Density) in a 4-1 vote with Mayor Jeff Banyas voting against the move. If approved, the town homes will sit on a roughly 4.5-acre parcel.
Commissioners also will consider a plan that would reduce budgeted special appropriations this year by more than $68,000.
On Monday, commissioners agreed on a move that cuts this year’s funding to Frontier Health by $12,000 and Carter County Tomorrow by $5,000. In addition, all remaining nonprofits and other agencies asking for city funds would be cut by 10 percent across-the-board.
The plan creates at least $50,000 that likely will be spent to help construct the Washington County/Johnson City Veterans Memorial.
Vice Mayor Phil Carriger said Monday the City Commission should do this out of “respect.”

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