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Rezoning of Memorial Court could lead to redevelopment

Matthew Lane • Jul 26, 2018 at 9:00 AM

KINGSPORT — A city business owner wants to rezone five acres at the corner of Eastman Road and Fort Henry Drive and then redevelop the property for a new pharmacy, restaurant and other commercial uses.

A rezoning request is scheduled to go before the Kingsport Regional Planning Commission at 5:30 tonight at City Hall. What’s being asked is for five acres of property located at the corner of Eastman and Fort Henry to be rezoned from residential to business.

The property includes four houses on Hemlock Lane and seven on Memorial Court. The idea would be to demolish those houses and three nearby commercial buildings for the redevelopment. City planners are recommending the rezoning. If the Planning Commission approves it, the matter will then go before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for consideration.

WHAT’S THE PLAN?

Eric Kennedy, the owner of Gold Rush (located at the corner of Eastman and Fort Henry) is requesting the rezoning. Kennedy, a Dobyns-Bennett graduate who opened Gold Rush in 2010, said he owns or has agreements to purchase all of the property in the area he wants to have rezoned. He already owns the two buildings in front of Memorial Court adjacent to the Gold Rush building.

“I’ve been approached by multiple people over time (about the property). More than likely, it’ll be a pharmacy and a restaurant. It could be a strip center. We have a general idea but nothing has been hammered down yet,” Kennedy said.

There’s not a definite timeline on when the houses would be demolished and the property redeveloped.

Kennedy added that he could develop it or he could work with others to transform the property. According to paperwork filed with the city, the pharmacy would be located at the corner (with the Gold Rush building gone) and adjacent to it on Fort Henry would be the restaurant with two drive-thru lanes.

NOT EVERYONE AGREES

Josef and Ashley Throp moved into their Memorial Court home in July 2017 under a lease/purchase agreement with Josef’s aunt. Their house is the last one on that side of the street and is not included in the proposed rezoning.

The couple have a 14-month-old son and were expecting to live in the house for a long time.

“This could change those plans,” Josef said. “It’s a very old neighborhood and it’s saddening for it to happen. We’ve been told a business could not be within 30 feet, but it’s not that far a distance. It’s concerning for sure.”

Michelle Eskind and her husband, Darren, moved back to the Model City last year from Louisiana and are currently renting one of the houses on Memorial Court. The couple have moved 38 times and have previously lived in Kingsport. When the opportunity came up to move back to Kingsport, the couple jumped at the chance.

“We found out about the plan when the (rezoning) sign popped up in my yard,” Michelle said. “Why tear up seven beautiful homes to put in something we really don’t need? I can walk to two pharmacies. Across the street we have tons of restaurants. We don’t lack for anything in this area.”

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