Rezoning of Ballad Health property passes first hurdle

David Floyd • Updated May 7, 2020 at 8:39 PM

A rezoning request for a roughly 40-acre piece property owned by Ballad Health received an initial round of approval from Johnson City leaders on Thursday.

Johnson City commissioners unanimously approved on first reading rezoning the land from RTP (Research/Technology Park District) to B-4 (Planned Arterial Business District). The land sits at the intersection of Christian Church Road and Boones Station Road in Boones Creek.

The rezoning requires two more votes from commissioners before it’s officially approved.

The commission held its meeting by video conference on Thursday, and Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock said the group will continue to hold electronic meetings through the end of May and reevaluate in June.

City Manager Pete Peterson said the health system’s property was originally owned by Wellmont Health System before ownership was transferred to Mountain States Health Alliance. Following the merger of the two systems, it now belongs to Ballad Health.

Peterson said an RTP designation was placed on the property years ago. RTP zoning has been applied to a limited number of parcels throughout the city, and Peterson said even fewer of them have been developed.

As staff was looking into the option of rezoning RTP properties in Johnson City into zoning designations that would better align with surrounding land use, Peterson said the city had conversations with a representative of Ballad Health, who agreed the system would like to see the land zoned B-4.

Peterson said the rezoning would pose no additional cost to the city and would not negatively impact city services.

“It is being rezoned to remain consistent with surrounding B-4 zoning and land uses,” Ballad Health spokeswoman Meaghan Smith said Thursday. “At this time, there is not a designated use for the land.”

Peterson said during an agenda review meeting Monday that the health system has a planned use for the property that it’s “not willing to disclose right now.” Peterson said he knows the planned use for the property, but has been asked not to repeat it until the health system has contracts signed.

“It will be a use that will not be offensive to anybody,” Peterson told commissioners Monday. “It’s going to be primarily an office-type use.”

According to a report from city staff, the land was annexed into the city in 2007. At the time, staff said Wellmont intended to the use the property for a multi-building medical facility park. Staff said Ballad has since abandoned the plan initially envisioned at the time of annexation.

The report said the rezoning is part of a larger city effort to convert various RTP districts to zoning designations that are more consistent with surrounding development and anticipated growth patterns.

City staff said the rezoning, which the report said is staff-initiated, is intended to facilitate development of the property in line with other B-4 land use in the area and to take advantage of the Regional Retail & Tourism Development District, a 950-acre incentive zone that city commissioners approved the boundaries of earlier this year. The boundaries have now gone to the state for final approval.

Mass transit funds

Commissioners authorized staff to apply for a $2.67 million grant from the federal government, which would be used to support the city’s mass transit system.

Peterson said the funding can be used for planning, capital and operating costs incurred beginning Jan. 20 until all funds are expended.

“It’s a good opportunity to help us offset some of the revenue losses that we will experience as a result of sales and property taxes,” he said.

According to the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the $2.67 million in funding was made possible through the $2.2 trillion stimulus package — the CARES Act — that the federal government approved in late March.

The package included $25 billion in relief for transit agencies in the U.S, including almost $30 million for Tennessee.


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