Sullivan County Mayor Steve Godsey doesn’t want Johnson City to expand into his county. As Press staff writer Gary B. Gray reported in Wednesday’s paper, Godsey believes Johnson City’s municipal boundaries should remain where they are in Washington County.
Johnson City officials are currently looking to annex 64 acres along U.S. 11E in Sullivan County. This is part of a overall growth plan that includes annexation of property along the Bobby Hicks Highway corridor all the way to the Sullivan County line.
We hate to break it to Godsey, but Johnson City has every right to annex these areas inside Sullivan County.
In fact, it is a right that Godsey — when he was a member of the state General Assembly — helped to bestow on municipalities. Godsey was a member of the state House of Representatives in the late 1990s when lawmakers approved a smart growth law that governs when and where cities and towns can expand. The law established urban growth boundaries for all municipalities and counties in Tennessee.
“I hate that Sullivan County feels that way, but our urban growth boundary was reviewed and approved years ago by a committee that included representatives from Sullivan County’s government,” Steve Neilson, Johnson City’s long-range planning coordinator, told the Press.
“I thought we were being very neighborly. When we annexed the area where Food City went up (U.S. 11E), Sullivan County was able to receive a share of sales tax revenues for 15 years.”
It’s both appropriate and permissible under state law for Johnson City to control its urban growth boundaries along U.S. 11E and along the Bobby Hicks Highway corridor. These are the areas where Johnson City is growing. As such, the city has a duty to see that the development is orderly and sound.
Johnson City must be at the forefront of how these important gateways to the city are developed. And we would also remind Godsey that there are property owners in these areas who want to be a part of Johnson City in order to receive essential services they can’t get from Sullivan County.