Johnson City Commission set to approve rezoning for $20M State of Franklin development

Gary B. Gray • Nov 20, 2013 at 11:55 AM

The City Commission tonight is likely to pass a third reading to rezone 29 acres off North State of Franklin Road and clear the way for Nashville’s GBT Realty to construct a $20 million retail development on the site.

Commissioners approved a concept plan and a second reading of the rezoning request Oct. 3. This came after lengthy review of a comprehensive 429-page traffic study conducted by another Nashville-based company, Gresham Smith and Partners.

The count: 4-1 with Vice Mayor Clayton Stout voting against the move. The second vote proceeded without much conversation. This hurdle was a second reading of an ordinance to rezone the parcel from MS-1 (Medical Services) to B-4 (Planned Arterial Business). Again, the count was 4-1 with Stout opposing the move.

A final reading to rezone was delayed for more than a month. Jeff Pape, GBT Realty Corp.’s shopping center division senior vice president, told the Johnson City Press the delay was a matter of scheduling and due mainly to personal issues.

Stout, who has decided to challenge state Rep. Micah Van Huss R-Jonesborough, for the GOP nomination and a run at the 6th House District seat, has said repeatedly that the area should remain zoned medical, as originally intended, and that he would not vote for additional retail development that would provide graduating East Tennessee University students with jobs to “bag groceries.”

The center, when fully built out, 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.

Commissioners also will consider a second reading of a spay/neuter ordinance that was deferred Nov. 7 after more than an hourlong debate and a late request by Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin that some language be changed to reflect a more complete fix.

The vote was 4-1 to defer on a second reading, with Commissioner David Tomita voting against.

Following commissioner comments and a public hearing, it appeared the ordinance may have been headed for defeat.

“You hear a lot of ‘it works” but you don’t see a lot of numbers,” Tomita said. “I still question the affect of this, at least as far as real numbers. I would like to see the data that supports this thesis, but I haven’t.”

Van Brocklin, who strongly supports the move, said perhaps the Animal Control Board could add components, such as education and further possibilities once the new animal shelter is built. Eventually, he spotted wording in the ordinance that spelled out how a person could pay a $25 opt-out fee, be cited later for letting their dog or cat run free and be able to use the fee purchase to bypass the requirement that such animals actually be spayed or neutered.

Johnson City currently has no specific municipal code on the books that dictates spay and neuter regulations. The city basically has followed state law, which states that all animals adopted from animal shelters must be spayed and neutered.

The City Commission agreed to move the meeting up one day to support the ETSU basketball program and the four games scheduled at Freedom Hall this month, including a doubleheader Thursday, said Keisha Shoun, Johnson City public information specialist.

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