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Should Johnson City approve an anonymous request for rezoning?

Johnson City Press • Feb 24, 2019 at 5:20 PM

Johnson City commissioners are considering an interesting proposal, not only because of the 100 temporary jobs it might bring to the city.

As reported by staff writer Zach Vance, a manufacturer of automobile heating components is eyeing an empty warehouse on East Milliard Street to bring its production line for three or four years. Landing the potential business could bring 100 new jobs to the city, and economic development officials say the company may build a permanent facility in the Washington County Industrial Park and occupy it at the end of the four-year period.

The proposed site would need to be rezoned from Intermediate Business District (B-3) to Light Industrial District (I-1) to allow the company to operate there. So far, company representatives have made no concrete commitment to come to the city in return for the zoning change, and they are still actively considering other properties, according to city officials.

We’re also still waiting for the identity of the company to be publicly disclosed, because Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership Vice President of Industrial Development Alicia Summers signed a non-disclosure agreement that legally prevents her from revealing who is behind the request and other details about the possible move.

It’s likely we common folks won’t know the company’s identity until after the rezoning request is decided. On Thursday, city commissioners unanimously approved the zoning change on first reading and they called a special meeting next Monday for the second reading.

Some say it’s important to guard a company’s secrets. If their potential moves were made public, their competitors could gain an advantage, or the employees at their existing sites could panic.

Others say residents and public officials have a right to know who is asking for concessions from their communities.

We want to put it to you. Should Johnson City commissioners approve the anonymous rezoning request? Is the potential for jobs more important than knowing who may be bringing them? Should city leaders ask for assurances that the company will relocate if the zoning is changed?

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