Next chapter of mill saga starts tonight

Gary B. Gray • May 1, 2014 at 8:31 AM

Amber Lee, an attorney who lives in Johnson City’s Tree Streets neighborhood, spoke publicly several times on behalf of the Southside Neighborhood Organization during the city’s months-long process to rezone property to allow Evolve Development’s new apartment complex.

She was not the only one to oppose demolition of the former Model Mill and construction of a 216-unit apartment complex off West Walnut Street, but she was the only one to catch a mistake that forced the City Commission to repeat a three-step process to officially — and legally — complete the rezoning.

That process begins tonight as commissioners return to the first of three required readings.

“I was looking through the city’s zoning and land-use codes and procedures — that’s where I found it,” Lee said. “It was just a matter of thumbing through it. I found that if the City Commission was going to hold a public hearing on this matter, which is required at second readings, they must publish that fact in the newspaper.”

Per T.C.A. 13-7-203, the Board of Commissioners "shall hold a public hearing on all rezonings and text amendments. At least fifteen (15) days prior to the public hearing by the Board of Commissioners, notice of the time and place thereof shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the City of Johnson City.”

That didn’t happen and now state law requires commissioners to return to the procedural starting blocks and run through the entire process once more. City officials and the legal counsel for the developer say the delay means little other than an inconvenience, and plans are still on.

City Manager Pete Peterson said Tuesday a “city planner” was responsible for publishing the notice.

Johnson-City-Jonesborough-Washington County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Gary Mabrey said there is a binding contract in place between the Chamber and Evolve Development LLC to construct the $18.5 million complex off West Walnut Street and West State of Franklin Road — property which includes the now-vacated Mize Farm & Garden Supply.

Plans to develop the roughly 6-acre site were first proposed publicly in October. Now, commissioners must approve Evolve’s request to rezone the mill property from B-2 (central business district) to B-3 (supporting central business district).

About one week prior to the City Commission’s final reading, the Board of Zoning Appeals approved a request for a variance, or exception, from the city’s parking code to allow part of its parking lot to be built between State of Franklin Road and the complex’s buildings.

The BZA’s decision is set, and that board will not be forced into a “do-over.”

Commissioners also will consider at the May 1 meeting:

Submission of a $1 million Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation grant through the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The bureau is similarly structured to the Targeted Community Crime Reduction Project and would allow the city to create a greater engagement of residents and merchants to public safety services. The grant would provide federal funding to expand the target area to include Keystone, Mountain Home, downtown, as well as provide new services not yet offered.

A $24,500 agreement with Williams Restoration & Waterproofing to perform a Johnson City Public Library brick project. The project includes masonry repair and the repair of landscaping walls.

An adjustment to City Manager Pete Peterson’s annual salary.

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