Group to discuss potential purchase of land near Winged Deer

Gary B. Gray • Dec 19, 2013 at 9:16 AM

Johnson City could end up buying 30 acres of land near Winged Deer Park, but city commissioners will begin their inquiry tonight by looking closer at costs associated with site preparation of the steeped property. City Parks and Recreation Department Director Roger Blakeley introduced a proposal to commissioners Dec. 5 in which the city potentially could buy the property off 11E/Bristol Highway for expanded recreational use at the city park. A developer who owns 37 acres to the west of Winged Deer has an option on the land that ends at the end of the year, and that 30 acres could be had for $13,500 an acre. City Engineer Allan Cantrell has been working to arrive at site preparation costs, and he also is expected to deliver information to commissioners.“The proximity makes it a natural interest, and the Parks and Recreation Board has recommended that site for future programming,” Assistant City Manager Charlie Stahl said. “That said, there’s going to be some site costs. It’s on a steep grade. Allan should have some numbers on what it would cost. But just because the land is available doesn’t mean the City Commission is inclined to buy it.”Commissioner David Tomita told the Press earlier this month that the purchase and possible building of new recreational facilities on the site could carry a price tag of $5 million to $6 million. But he also made it clear that he didn’t want the public “to think we have a plan in place.”Commissioners also will consider finalizing a roughly $70,000 bid by Johnson City’s Rainey Construction Co. to demolish the long-vacant WW Cab Co. building at 128 N. Commerce St. to clear the way for a large flood-mitigation project downtown planned by city officials for years.The contract calls for the company to begin work Jan. 6 and reach “substantial completion” by Feb. 19. The city acquired the WW Cab property last year and it hoped to initiate a project that incorporated the U-Haul site into what will be a major stormwater project at perhaps the lowest point and problem flooding area downtown.U-Haul, which sits near the former cab site and just behind Morrell Music, has until April to find another location. If not, it must pay the city $10,000 for each month that the property remains occupied. However, if the company has not moved out by the end of 2014, it can legally be evicted. Meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Investigation-Knoxville has requested a five-year lease for space on the city’s 180-foot tower situated on Buffalo Mountain for use described in a proposed lease agreement only as “public safety” and “national security.”The FBI wants to install an antenna less that six feet in height on the north leg of the tower. The lease is for $6,000 per year to be paid in installments of $500 on the first day of each month. The city adjusted the terms, increasing the monthly rent by $50 per month for a total of $6,600 per year. In the event the FBI antenna interferes with the city’s radio communication, it will allow the agency a reasonable opportunity to eliminate it. Should that effort fail, the city has the right to terminate the lease.Commissioners also will reconsider an amended concept plan from Monarch Ventures. The developer plans to build four-story apartment buildings with a total of 176 units at the former Mullican site.Changes have been proposed to the previously approved concept plan, which resulted when underground infrastructure was located during preliminary site work. The revisions include shifting the building east toward University Parkway, removing the parking garage in front of the clubhouse, rearranging the parking areas to accommodate the new building locations and the addition of new traffic circulation patterns throughout the site.

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