Johnson City approves Boones Creek annexation request on first reading

Owner Roselea Proffitt is asking Johnson City to annex 19.6 acres of her 35-acre property. The land is located at the intersection of Christian Church Road and Boones Station Road.

After another request by the applicant was denied in December, the annexation of 19.6 acres in Boones Creek has received an initial round of approval from the Johnson City Commission.

The acreage, at the intersection of Christian Church Road and Boones Station Road, is part of a larger 35-acre parcel owned by Roselea Proffitt, and sits within the proposed boundaries of a 950-acre retail and tourism incentive zone, a district Johnson City commissioners approved earlier this year.

Legislation signed by the governor last year authorized city leaders to draw the borders of the district, and officials are 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 would allow developers to offset various costs.

Commissioners unanimously approved the annexation on first reading Thursday. The request will require two more positive votes from the group before it is officially approved. The applicant is also asking that the city assign a B-4 (planned arterial business district) zoning designation to the land.

Kim Sillyman, who is part of a group called the Save Boones Creek Committee that is opposed to the request, said Thursday that nearby residents are against development occurring in a piecemeal fashion. She said neighbors don’t want heavy commercial projects, such as a big box store or office buildings, that would compromise the natural beauty of the land.

Instead, Sillyman said residents want something unique, self-contained and cohesive that will attract families to the area. As examples, she mentioned amenities like athletic fields or places to ride a bike or grab a beer. She sees potential for development in a style similar to places like Mount Pleasant or Charleston.

“Something that you can’t get anywhere else,” she said. “So that when people come to Northeast Tennessee and they go to Boones Creek they specifically go there to spend their money at Boones Creek.”

Lynn Hodge, a former Washington County commissioner who is representing Proffitt as the city considers the proposal, said in May that he didn’t yet have an investor lined up for the property. He said at the time that he and Proffitt don’t have any plans for the land other than to annex it into the city and rezone it B-4, a designation that would give a developer the greatest flexibility for the use of the property.

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 with Dwight Hunt.

Hodge did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon.

Late last year, Proffitt asked city commissioners to annex a smaller portion of the property, which they denied on third and final reading.

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

If annexed, city staff estimate it would cost $33,000 to extend water and $98,000 to extend sewer services to the property, which would generate $1,200 in city taxes per year in its current state. Staff anticipate that could increase “significantly” depending on the value of any future development.

Johnson City Development Services Director Preston Mitchell said other nearby properties could benefit from the extension of water and sewer to the site in question, which would “dilute” the cost. Because of the ongoing reconstruction of Exit 17 off Interstate 26, Mitchell added there’s a good chance Christian Church Road will need to be upgraded to handle more traffic.

Other business

Commissioners also approved the city’s fiscal year 2021 budget on first reading Thursday, which is smaller this year because of anticipated cuts in revenue caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The budget does not contain a property tax increase. 

Among other changes, the city cut a 4% pay plan adjustment for employees, worth about $1.2 million, to balance its FY 21 budget.

Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock said the city has been working hard to ensure its compensation package for employees is competitive, allowing it to more easily recruit and retain staff. She would like to see employee raises be a priority if revenues come in stronger than anticipated.

As is, Peterson said the budget plans for the worst-case scenario and added that the city may be able to pass a budget amendment later in the year to make up for spending that has been cut.

Commissioners also opted to add $50,000 to the budget to pay for a marketing and special events positions cut from the Johnson City Development Authority’s funding.

In its entirety, the city’s FY 21 budget of about $238 million is about $12 million (or about 4.8%) smaller than the FY 20 budget.