Johnson City gives initial approval to annexation, zoning for Ballad Health training site

David Floyd • Mar 19, 2020 at 8:22 PM

Proposed for a Ballad Health training site in Gray, an annexation and zoning request for a 4.5 acre parcel passed its first hurdle in front of the Johnson City Commission on Thursday.

Commissioners approved the requests unanimously on first reading. Vice Mayor Joe Wise and Commissioner John Hunter were absent for spring break. Staff is recommending the assignment of a B-4 (planned arterial business) zoning designation to the site in question, located at 5112 Bobby Hicks Highway and 3309 Sid Martin Road.

The applicant is listed as Stewardship Properties Group LLC.

Ballad Health spokeswoman Allie Adams said last month the property’s existing building would be used as a technology training site. She said Ballad is asking for the annexation so the building can have access to city services.

Adams said the facility will be used for Epic training and other training and administration needs in the future. Epic, a company founded in 1979, develops software used in multiple medical settings, including community hospitals, academic medical centers and rehab facilities. 

The request initially came in front of the commission on March 5 with a B-5 zoning designation. The designation was changed to B-4 at the request of the city.

According to the report from city staff, the land would produce an estimated $10,547 in property tax revenue for the city and have approximately 20 employees.

According to a warranty deed signed Jan. 3, Stewardship Properties Group LLC sold the property  to Mountain States Health Alliance for $2.1 million. Mountain States Health Alliance merged with Wellmont Health System to form Ballad Health in 2018.

Other business

Seated with empty seats between them on the dais, commissioners maintained proper social distancing during their meeting on Thursday.

“I think we all know, and have been watching TV around the clock to know, that we’re in some very uncharted territory and times in our country,” Mayor Jenny Brock said. “I know that our citizens in Johnson City are all pulling together — that we’re going to get through all the challenges that are in front of us.”

City Manager Pete Peterson said the city has been preparing for the possibility of a confirmed COVID-19 case in Washington County. As of Thursday, the Tennessee Department of Health reports there are now 154 cases of COVID-19 in the state. None were reported in Washington County.

“We have more than adequate contingency plans in place,” Peterson said, noting that the city has been cross-training employees, identifying employees who can work from home and ordering ahead on chemicals to ensure the water and sewer plants stay functional.

With schools not in session, Peterson said the need for child care has been a recurring topic over the last 10 days. Although officials are still figuring out what form it will take, he said the city is working on a solution to the problem.

“That seems to be one of the bigger challenges right now,” he said. “In order to help people keep working and keep their livelihood going, they need some help with child care.”

Although city recreational facilities have closed, Brock noted city parks are still open, and as businesses adjust hours or close temporarily as precautions to the outbreak, Commissioner Larry Calhoun asked citizens to try to help the local economy as much as possible.

Commissioners also approved on second reading two property conveyances.

The first involves the city transferring ownership of a small, 2-acre portion of the roughly 50-acre Keefauver Farm at 632 Hales Chapel Road to the Boones Creek Historical Trust, an organization spotlighting the history and culture of the Boones Creek area that has been eyeing the land for about eight years.

The second involves the city selling a small vacant parcel at 316 S. Commerce St. to Michael Mansy and his wife, Katherine Mansy, for $20,000. Michael Mansy said in February that he plans on using the property, which is located next to Founders Park, and adjacent land that he owns at 312 S. Commerce St. for a new coffeehouse and bakery.

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