Eric Kennedy, the owner of the Gold Rush business (where the giant gorilla sits), requested the property be rezoned from residential to business to allow for the redevelopment of the site. Kennedy either owns or has an agreement to purchase all four houses on Hemlock Lane, seven on Memorial Court, the old Joe Gong restaurant and its adjacent building.
A conceptual plan shows all of these buildings demolished and in their place a new development, one with a pharmacy at the corner of the intersection and a restaurant (with a double-lane drive-thru) next door.
In a packed room Thursday night, the planners considered the matter and ultimately voted 4-3 to send a negative recommendation to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. The BMA will likely discuss the matter at its Aug. 20 work session, then consider the rezoning the following evening at its regular meeting.
WHAT PEOPLE SAID ABOUT THE REQUEST
Kennedy: “Of the four corners (at this intersection), this is the one that probably needs the most work. This is in the heart of the city. It (would) create jobs and revenue and it’ll have a better appearance for people driving through.”
Michelle Eskind (who lives on Memorial Court): “I can’t build a home this solid for this kind of money. My concern is about razing these beautiful, strong homes for a pharmacy.”
Shannon Morelock (a former resident of Memorial Court): “In 2013 or 2014, Mr. Kennedy approached me about selling and said up-front the reason why. My family made the decision to sell. (The development) is not something that popped up out of thin air.”
Josef Throp (who lives on Memorial Court and would be adjacent to the development): “My biggest concern is our driveway is 5 feet tall and a 6-foot fence isn’t going to do anything. And (a buffer of) 30 feet is not a comfortable distance.”
Gwen Hobbs (who owns a business located within the proposed development): “I really feel like this is the highest and best use to change this property. I see a lot of tax revenue for the city and it’s going to look better.”
Bobby Dezarn (who lives on Sycamore Street): “It’s bad enough with the traffic now. I don’t think we need that in that place. The little subdivision will be gone.”
Justin Kennedy (the brother of Eric): “Overall, this is a great opportunity for the area. These properties are needed to make the entire development happen. It’ll bring good value to that corner and to Kingsport.”