The city has mulled over the idea of allowing off-premise license holders to start selling beer at 8 a.m. on Sundays for nearly 10 years, and on Thursday the City Commission started the ball rolling to make that a reality.
In a 3-1 vote on first reading, commissioners moved the ordinance forward with the main concern being that businesses located near Sullivan County and the Bristol Motor Speedway were losing dollars to nearby stores located just across the county line.
Commissioner Ralph Van Brocklin opposed the move. Mayor Jeff Banyas was absent.
“Apparently there are quite a few establishments near Bristol Speedway, and they’re losing a lot of sales,” said Jim Epps IV, Johnson City’s associate legal counsel.
Epps also told commissioners that a lot of people like to get up early to fish and that it (the request) was “partly Bristol, but not completely.”
“What we’re doing is creating a level playing field,” he added.
Commissioner Clayton Stout, who before the vote said he was not too supportive of the ordinance on the first go around, did support the move when it came time to say yea or nay.
“I look forward to having three readings, talking to Chief (John) Lowry and some religious leaders,” Stout said.
When these stores lose revenues, the city loses out on tax revenues. City Manager Pete Peterson made that very clear, saying when the off-premise license holders cannot start selling beer until noon, which is how the current city ordinance reads, it results in the loss of sales and revenues to Johnson City’s corporate citizens and its tax collections.
Johnson City has multiple retailers with off-premise licenses whose businesses are located at or near the edge of the city limits. And in some cases, they are located immediately adjacent to or across from a retailer with a beer license issued by another government whose permitted hours of beer sales differ from the city’s.
In other business, commissioners unanimously approved — with Banyas absent — an ordinance that would deliver roughly 3.5 acres of city-owned land on King Springs Road to Eastern Eight Community Development Corp. for development of an affordable single-family subdivision. The Kingsprings Village concept plan was approved by the city earlier this year.
Community Development Director Steve Baldwin told commissioners that people already are excited and hopeful that this opportunity will come to fruition.
Baldwin said the concept plan subdivides the property into 15 lots with an access road that will allow the development of 15 single single-family houses that can be purchased by low- and moderate-income first-time home buyers.
The homes will be 1,000 to 1,500 square feet in size and priced at a range of between $125,000 and $146,000. Eastern Eight anticipates getting the infrastructure work completed this fall and winter and begin construction of the homes next spring.
Commissioners also unanimously approved a first reading of a request by ETSU for the city to abandon as a public thoroughfare Jack Vest Drive from South Greenwood Drive to its intersection with State of Franklin Road. The right-of-way to be abandoned contains several utilities including water, telephone and electric power, and the providers of these utilities want to retain a usable easement there.
The abandonment will not directly affect the delivery of city services or access to private property.