Previously denied, Boones Creek annexation request returns to city with changes

David Floyd • May 10, 2020 at 7:50 PM

After an earlier request was denied by the Johnson City Commission in December, the owner of a 35-acre parcel in Boones Creek is again asking the city to annex a portion of her property.

Owner Rosalea Proffitt is requesting that the city annex about 19.6 acres of the land and assign the property a B-4 (planned arterial business district) zoning designation. The parcel, located at the intersection of Christian Church Road and Boones Station Road, currently has a county zoning designation of “planned manufacturing district.”

Lynn Hodge, trustee of the property and a former Washington County commissioner, is helping Proffitt sell the land after her husband died. He has served as her representative as it moves through the city approval process.

Hodge said Friday a B-4 zoning designation would make it possible for the property to interest a wide range of potential developers. He added that he doesn’t currently have an investor committed to the land.

“We do not have any plans for it other than to ask the city to annex it, take it into the city and rezone it B-4,” Hodge said. “The reason for that is B-4 gives you the greatest latitude for the use of the property.”

If annexed, a developer who decides to buy the property could potentially benefit from incentives made possible through a 950-acre retail and tourism development zone, a district that would allow developers to apply for incentive money to offset the cost of tasks like land acquisition, design, engineering or construction on properties in the zone.

The incentives would be funded with a portion of the state sales tax revenue generated in the district. Johnson City commissioners approved the boundaries of that zone earlier this year and are now waiting for final approval from the state.

“We’re very much interested in bringing an investor into the area, and with this coronavirus and the sales tax collections down for everywhere — every city government, every county government, every state government, all the federal governments — taxes are down,” Hodge said. “The city is going to be hurting for commercial businesses.”

The request initially came before the Johnson City Planning Commission on April 27 but was deferred so that a subcommittee of commission members, which met with Hodge on May 5, could get more detailed information about the request.

That meeting, which was held by video conference and was previously streamed on the city’s YouTube channel, was no longer listed on the city’s page as of Friday afternoon. A city spokesman said it was accidentally deleted.

The annexation request is scheduled to appear before the Planning Commission again on Tuesday and will then move on to the full Johnson City Commission for a final decision.

City staff estimate it would cost $33,000 to extend water and $98,000 to extend sewer services to the property. In its undeveloped state, staff anticipate the land would generate $1,200 in city taxes per year, which would increase “significantly” depending on the value of any future commercial development on the site.

Staff said three other properties would benefit from the extension of water and sewer lines to the land in question.

During the meeting on May 5, Hodge said Proffitt is only requesting the annexation of 19.6 acres of the property because a potential developer is interested in acquiring the remaining 15 acres, combining it with an adjoining 27-acre property owned by the Lynn Hodge Living Trust and Dwight Hunt.

That land would be used for a retail or tourism project, which could make it eligible for incentives. That project has been delayed because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic.

The 35-acre property sits just across Christian Church Road from a 43-acre tract of land owned by Ballad Health, which is in the process of being rezoned from RTP (research/technology park district) to B-4. Commissioners approved the rezoning of that land, which sits inside city limits, on first reading on May 7.

“We’re not asking the city to do anything and provide anything to us that they haven’t agreed to provide to the 43-acre Ballad Health property,” Hodge said.

Previously denied

A smaller portion of this property previously came before the City Commission late last year, which commissioners denied on third and final reading.

Proffitt was asking that the city annex 3 acres of the 35-acre parcel and assign a B-4 designation, which at the time city staff indicated would have set the groundwork for the construction of a nonresidential substance abuse treatment facility on the land. Nearby residents were concerned a Suboxone clinic would be built on the property, which Hodge said was untrue.

Neighbors also had concerns about the appropriateness of B-4 zoning on the land, which sits near residential properties, the impact development would have on traffic and the cost of providing city services to the property.

In denying the request, commissioners indicated that the plan as presented, which involved annexing just 3 acres of the 35-acre parcel, wasn’t the highest and best use for the property.

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