West Walnut task force talks details ahead of final reading

Zach Vance • Oct 19, 2016 at 7:53 PM

The devil is in the details. 

The West Walnut Street task force met on Wednesday to tweak its new West Walnut Street District zoning code based on feedback received from the City Commission. 

Among those items were: deciding to remove a Board of Zoning appeals special requirement for sidewalk dining; redrawing the illustrations currently on the document and keeping an 11 p.m. restriction on food and alcohol consumption in outdoor dining areas. 

“We’ve basically taken what the City Commission said (and) refined the document to reflect it,” said Joe Wise, task force chairman. 

While the items may be perceived as minuscule, Wise reiterated the task force’s goal was to get it right the first time. 

“We want to do it right. We don’t want to do it quickly,” Wise said. “If it takes an extra six or eight weeks to have something that has an effective approach that will last over a sustained period of time, then let’s spend the extra eight weeks. Let’s invest that time now, rather than trying to play catch up later.”

The City Commission passed the new zoning regulations unanimously on the first two readings, but according the the city’s attorney, several alterations to the code will now require a hearing from the Johnson City Regional Planning Commission prior to a third and final reading. 

“At this point, what we’re hearing indirectly through the city attorney, because we’ve made changes to the document, it will need to go back to the Planning Commission,” Wise said. 

“We’ve made changes to the document, but really not fundamentally altered what the document does, we’ve just finessed it. They will approve it, and then it’ll continue on its track to the third reading.” 

Wednesday’s meeting was one of the first task force gatherings without longtime development coordinator Steve Neilson. Neilson played an important role on the task force in drafting the new code before leaving to become a planning director in Morristown at the end of September. 

Created in December, the 10-member task force of business owners, residents and city officials have attempted to create a zoning code based on public input that would enhance and add appeal to the West Walnut Street corridor. West Walnut Street is currently made up of three different zoning district. 

All current businesses in the district will be grandfathered under the current conditions, but all new businesses will have to conform to the new regulations. 

The Planning Commission will meet on Nov. 8, and the City Commission’s third reading will likely take place on Nov. 17. 

Email Zach Vance at [email protected] Follow Zach Vance on Twitter at @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP

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