Rezoning for Evolve project on City Commission agenda

Gary B. Gray • Feb 6, 2014 at 8:42 AM

City commissioners tonight will hear a first reading of an ordinance to rezone property at the former Mennel Milling Co. and current Mize Farm & Garden sites to make way for a new apartment complex developed by Scott Austin, North Carolina’s Evolve Development co-founder.

Austin is requesting the property be rezoned from B-2 (central business) to B-3 (supporting central business).

“Both zoning districts allow multi-family uses, but B-3 is more suitable,” said Development Services Director Angie Carrier. “B-2 has no parking requirements.”

Carrier said the request will not create a negative impact to the surrounding area, as the B-3 district is intended to encourage developments that will support the downtown.

Situating the redevelopment on this property also will benefit the West Walnut Street corridor by providing additional density that is necessary to support future commercial developments, she said.

Evolve’s proposed 216-unit project has drawn concerns from residents in the Tree Streets neighborhood that tenants likely would be college students, which in turn could increase traffic and bring more noise and crime to that area.

At a Jan. 9 neighborhood meeting between Tree Streets residents and Johnson City attorney Tom McKee, who is representing Evolve, revealed the company will allow tenants to rent by the bedroom, a common practice for student housing.

McKee said Austin initially told residents early in the development process that there was no intention to rent by the room, but market conditions later caused that to change.

“We had several people speak,” Carrier said about the neighborhood meeting. “Mainly, they (opponents) preferred there would be some kind of commercial element to the development.”

Commissioners also will consider a resolution authorizing debt service payments for the construction of the new Washington County/Johnson City Animal Control Center (animal shelter). In June, the City Commission unanimously voted to add $1.5 million to its fiscal 2014 budget for the purpose of constructing the new center.

Vice Mayor Clayton Stout introduced the idea last year as city officials were rewriting a third and final reading of the FY 2013-14 budget ordinance.

The resolution states the city will make an annual financial contribution sufficient to retire the debt in 20 years. Contributions for construction of the new center off North Roan Street will go directly to the Animal Control Board, which oversees shelter and animal control operations.

The city will use funds from the gas franchise fee, reduce the variable rate debt allocation from 5 percent to 3.5 percent, cut special appropriation spending and eliminate the 1 percent early tax payment discount to help pay for the added expenses.

A first reading of an ordinance to convey city-owned property to the Tri-Cities Airport Authority also will be heard. The property was formerly held by the Tri-Cities Airport Commission. The airport authority was created in 2010, and its attorneys have been working on the transfer of certain federal and state improvement grants in advance of the transfer. Neighboring counties and cities also are transferring their interests in the property to the airport authority.

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