Johnson City planning board approves Boones Creek annexation request

David Floyd • May 12, 2020 at 11:35 PM

A controversial annexation request in Boones Creek will move on to the Johnson City Commission with a stamp of approval from the city’s regional planning board.

Members of the Johnson City Regional Planning Commission voted 5-3 to approve the annexation of 19.6 acres of a 35-acre property at the intersection of Christian Church Road and Boones Station Road and assign a B-4 (planned arterial business district) zoning designation. The Johnson City Commission will have final say on the request.

The property sits in the footprint of a proposed 950-acre retail and tourism incentive zone, a district that Johnson City Commissioners approved the boundaries of earlier this year. The city is now waiting for final approval of those boundaries from the state.

Land would need to be inside city limits to benefit from the incentives, which could be used to offset the cost of tasks like land acquisition, design, engineering or construction on properties in the zone.

During their meeting Tuesday, board members expressed concern about the amount of information they had about the ultimate plans for the property.

“The bottom line question, I think, is are we at a point where we have enough information to make a decision?” said board member Larry Calhoun, who is also a member of the Johnson City Commission. “Or are we at a point that even though we’d like more information, we’ve got to go with the fact that there’s a property owner that has rights do what he or she wants with their property?”

Lynn Hodge, who is representing land owner and applicant Roselea Proffitt as the city considers the proposal, said Friday he doesn’t have an investor lined up for the property. A prior investor backed out after city staff said he misconstrued a proposal from the planning board about the time frame for providing water and sewer services to the property.

“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 last Friday. “The reason for that is B-4 gives you the greatest latitude for the use of the property.”

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

Nearby residents have expressed staunch opposition to the project. In a letter to the planning commission, a group called the Save Boones Creek Committee listed a series of concerns about the annexation proposal, which included the impact of commercial businesses entering a residential area.

Kim Sillyman, who lives near the property, told commissioners during public comment that those expressing concern about the annexation are not against growth and development.

“All we’re asking is that this be carefully reexamined and that our views and our future generations are considered as what is going to drive them back to this area?” Sillyman said. “What is going to prosper this area, what is going to complement Jonesborough and this beautiful area that we have?”

Staff member estimate it would cost $131,000 to extend both water and sewer services to the site. In its current undeveloped state, staff anticipate the land would generate $1,200 in city taxes per year.

Development Coordinator Asongayi Venard said ongoing renovations to Interstate 26’s Exit 17 will end up diverting more traffic down Christian Church Road, which means it would need to be upgraded to a collector street to handle the influx.

Among other considerations, board member Benjamin Whitfield said the Planning Commission should weigh the input of residents in their decision.

“We don’t have a development plan, we don’t have a developer and ... I don’t think we’re being forced to make this decision right now,” Whitfield said. “There’s nothing pressing on it. There’s other land in the economic development zone that could be developed if needed.”

Board member Jamie Povlich said he understands the plight of the nearby residents.

“No one likes change,” Povlich said. “However, we don’t live in a vacuum. We were talking about the neighborhood and how it affects the neighborhood, but this was a request of a neighbor. And I don’t necessarily think that it’s up to us on a committee level to decide what should go there and what shouldn’t. It just needs to conform to B-4.”