Johnson City officials have for years eyed the Bobby Hicks Highway corridor and carefully planned a “logical” push toward the Sullivan County line.
During a joint meeting Tuesday of the City Commission and the Regional Planning Commission, annexation, business development and tax revenues were not considered dirty words; they instead were music to the ears.
Angie Charles, a development specialist with the city’s planning department, presented officials with some estimated numbers, including an assessed land value of the annexation of about $13.8 million. She also estimated that more than $265,000 in annual property tax revenues and about $27,000 in state-shared tax revenues could be realized. This does not include annual sales tax revenue, which has not yet been estimated.
“I think we should move forward,” Mayor Jeff Banyas said regarding the proposed annexation of more than 1,000 acres. “I think this is the right thing to do.”
The city wants to expand its jurisdiction starting from just northeast of the Gray Fossil Museum parking lot past Interstate 26 to a point about 4.5 miles northwest on State Route 75. The annexation must clear some hurdles, and some pretty high ones at that. First, all property owners will be notified and an initial a neighborhood meeting will be arranged.
Then, the plan, which still is in flux, must be reviewed and approved by the planning commission and finally by city commissioners. That sounds easy, but Planning Director Jim Donnelly said Tuesday the city likely will encounter some resistance from at least some of the more than 260 people currently living or doing business in the proposed annexed area.
Charles said about 600 acres, or 60 percent of all land proposed to be annexed, involves working farms. However, officials considered annexing only a few hundred feet into these properties so that they would receive city water and sewer services and not be burdened as much by taxation.
“I think this is the direction in which the city wants to move,” City Commissioner Ralph Van Brocklin said following Charles’ presentation and further discussion.
The move would allow for future development and tie into a major state road-widening project that begins at the junction of State Routes 36 and 75 and ends just south of the Tri-Cities Regional Airport.
The city already has a fire station near the museum, and has jurisdiction over a large portion of land near Bobby Hicks Highway and I-26. The city also has Keefauver Farm, which is a large, agriculturally zoned area just west of the proposed annexation.
“The backbone of the infrastructure already is in place,” Charles said. “And there’s nothing that says we have to annex the entire area.”
Initial costs to the city include roughly $1.5 million in water and sewer improvements, which could be phased in over several years, as well as costs for public school access and further public works improvements that are estimated at about $60,000, she said.
While most of the land is zoned for agricultural use, the next-highest percent of the annexation would be vacant, at about 13 percent, or nearly 126 acres. The remainder is a smattering of commercial, single- and multi-family and industrial zonings.