Proposed apartment complex, bird woes on agenda tonight

Gary B. Gray • Feb 20, 2014 at 8:48 AM

City commissioners will be doing some listening tonight as opponents of a proposed 216-unit apartment complex on West Walnut Street get their chance to speak, as will Gump Addition residents, who are expected to weigh in on three proposed remedies for a problem with roosting starlings.

On Feb. 6 commissioners unanimously OK’d the first reading of a request by North Carolina’s Evolve Development to rezone property at the former Mennel Milling Co. and current Mize Farm & Garden sites from B-2 (central business) to B-3 (supporting central business). Both zoning districts allow multi-family uses, but businesses in the central business district rely only on street and on-site parking.

Development Services Director Angie Carrier has said people living in the Tree Streets area are concerned about the likelihood that most tenants would be college students, which could increase traffic and bring more noise and crime to that area.

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. That, too, is expected to be a topic of concern when commissioners hear from residents.

“It has been a concern,” said Vice Mayor Clayton Stout. “I’ve talked with people who live in the Tree Streets, business owners and people who don’t live near that area.

“The question is, does the development advance our overall hopes for downtown development. Is this a positive or negative? That’s the question I pose to myself. I’ve talked with the chamber, and with Evolve, but this is more about Johnson City.”

Commissioners also will consider three options to help rid the Gump Addition of the troublesome starlings. The bird’s droppings have prompted health concerns, and Tennessee Wildlife Services District Supervisor, Keith Blanton, met with residents and members of the Johnson City Police Department a few weeks ago to discuss the problem.

Not including the option of doing nothing, since Blanton said the birds should be dispersing in early March, commissioners have three options.

The first is to pay about $6,000 for the state agency to provide for to five personnel, as well as equipment including pyrotechnics, for a roughly four-day “harassment project.” The second option would involve the state training, advising and guiding city personnel to conduct at minimum, a five-day project in which the city would purchase the pyrotechnics. This option runs $1,475.

A third choice is an “agreement for control” in which the state provides the species to be targeted and the methods to be used. There is no cost associated with this option.

“Since the roost will likely be dispersing naturally later this month or early in March, a decision would need to be made quickly if action is taken this roosting season,” Blanton wrote Johnson City Police Maj. Karl Turner on Feb. 5.

Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin said a public input session will be opened to the public tonight “owing to expressed concern by some residents that their feelings about the ‘shock and awe’ approach has not received adequate attention by commissioners.”

Meanwhile, the city’s legal staff is recommending a new ordinance to replace current municipal code which makes it illegal to sell and/or use of air guns within the city limits.

A revised ordinance will be introduced, following an inquiry by legal counsel for Crosman Corporation, a designer, manufacturer and marketer of air guns, which pointed out that federal law prohibits the city from certain restrictions.

The new ordinance allows parents, guardians and adult instructors to give or sell an air guns to their children, wards or pupils. It also allows air guns to be used on private property, but only if the projectile remains within the boundaries of the parcel of land being used.

Minors would be allowed to use air guns within their homes, at target ranges, and on private property.

However, air gun/slingshot dealers will not be allowed to sell or transfer the weapons to any person under 18. Individuals and groups such as the Boy Scouts have at various times in the past inquired with the city about its law regarding air gun use.

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