K-VA-T Food Stores President and CEO Steve Smith plans to build one of the largest Food City grocery stores in the company’s 105-facility portfolio in Johnson City on a 29-acre parcel off North State of Franklin Road.
Smith, who heads the largest privately held and employee-owned corporation grocery chain in America, sat at the back of the Johnson City Commission chambers Thursday listening intently as the final procedural link fell into place: a third and final reading of an ordinance to rezone the property from MS-1 (Medical Services) to B-4 (Planned Arterial Business).
Nashville-based GBT Realty plans to develop a large retail center at the location. When fully built out, the center would have 705 parking spaces, accommodate about 82,000 square feet of retail space, 59,500 square feet of grocery store space, 7,000 square feet of bank space, 18,000 square feet of restaurant space and a fuel center associated with the grocery store.
The vote was 4-1 with Vice Mayor Clayton Stout voting against the move.
“We have a few things to finish working out with the developer, but we’re excited about putting in a state-of-the-art facility,” Smith said. “It would certainly be one of our largest stores — about 50,000 square feet. With the extra square footage, it will probably have some extra amenities.”
The largest Food City ever opened in 2012 in Bristol, Va. That store is 58,000 square feet.
Rumors have been floating around that the Abingdon, Va.-based company would close its store near North State of Franklin Road and West Market Street and incorporate those operations into the larger store, but Smith would not confirm the rumor.
“It probably will replace a local store, but we’re not ready to make an announcement about that yet,” he said.
Stout, who voted against the rezoning three consecutive times, has voiced his disappointment that the property could not remain available for medical service-related research and development, as originally intended. Stout also has said the coming retail business would not offer East Tennessee State University graduates and others seeking desirable wages much more than jobs to “bag groceries or help people try on shoes.”
“I think I’ve said my piece, but it would be hypocritical of me to step away from my earlier statements,” he said before the vote. “But I do welcome you (GBT and the development) to Johnson City, and I wish you well.”
A second reading passed on Oct. 3, but Jeff Pape, GBT Realty Corp.’s shopping center division senior vice president, requested the final reading be delayed.
“We needed to delay it to adjust the timing with the tenant, in that we now plan to start construction in the spring and not this fall,” he said.
Pape said the “first tenant” could open it doors in late 2016.
In other business, commissioners voted 3-2 to move a proposed spay/neuter ordinance to a third reading.
Though it took nearly an hour of debate over three versions of the ordinance, a compromise was struck to move forward a law that would more strictly enforce mandatory spaying and neutering of dogs and cats running loose due to violations by pet owners.
Non-exempt owners wishing to keep an unaltered animal would be required to purchase a $25 permit. Violations would apply only to animals running loose or causing damage from bites. Pet owners would have only one chance after a first violation to obtain a permit. If a subsequent action has to be taken the permit could be revoked.
Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin, Commissioner Jenny Brock and Stout voted for the measure; Commissioners Jeff Banyas and David Tomita voted against.
Banyas and Tomita argued that too much material and too many changes were presented in short time span, which created a lack of clarity.
____Editor's Note: Due to an editor's error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Smith as saying coming retail business would not offer East Tennessee State University
graduates and others seeking desirable wages much more than jobs to “bag
groceries or help people try on shoes.” The statement was made by Stout.