Sullivan planners working on long-term guide for development

J. H. Osborne • Jan 24, 2007 at 11:12 AM

BLOUNTVILLE - Property along some of the major traffic corridors in Sullivan County could have new land-use designations in a couple of months.

Members of the Sullivan County Regional Planning Commission are scheduled to talk about the changes at a work session Friday.

In October they left a similar meeting with homework.

Their assignment: Use markers to draw their suggested land-use boundaries on maps showing parts of Sullivan Gardens Parkway, State Route 36, and Highways 75, 11-W and 11-E.

They returned their suggestions to County Planner Ambre Torbett, who used the information to create a map.

That's what they'll look at and talk about on Friday, Torbett said Wednesday.

It's a step toward finalizing a new regional plan for future development of land, transportation infrastructure and community facilities in the non-city portions of Sullivan County.

Once approved - something Torbett said could happen within the next two months, but only after public hearings on the final proposal - it will serve as a guide for development in the next 20 years.

The plan's development has been ongoing for several years, Torbett said.

She told planning commissioners to think conceptually when marking their maps and try and show how they want to see the county grow in those areas.

The end result will not change zoning, she said - but having a land-use plan in place can help provide legal support for zoning changes when they do come up.

Torbett gave commissioners a 151-page draft of a 20-year regional plan prepared by planning staff. It was prepared using the following major assumptions, findings and identified trends:

•County government will continue to support economic and community development through their continued strong planning programs in the cities and county.

•Regional planning authority provides the county the opportunity to strongly influence development in its defined growth areas.

•Natural factors, primarily topography, poor soils and floodplain, will limit areas for development.

•Modest, but steady, population growth is projected for the county during the planning period, with an increase from 153,048 in 2000 to approximately 161,263 in 2025.

•The elderly sector of the county's population is expected to increase in percentage in comparison to the total population. The U.S. Census indicates that the percentage of persons 65 years or older in Sullivan County has steadily increased, from 14.3 percent of the total population in 1990 to 15.9 percent in 2000. This compares to a 2000 figure of 12.4 percent for this age group for Tennessee as a whole.

•A significant percentage of the population is expected to continue to have moderate and low incomes. In 2000, 12.9 percent of Sullivan County's population had incomes at the census poverty level as compared to Tennessee as a whole with 13.5 percent.

•Manufacturing, retail, and public and private services are projected to be the primary sources of employment for the county during the planning period. Like Tennessee as a whole, agricultural employment continues to decline.

•The county has a sufficient amount of adequate housing. However, there are scattered spots of housing needing redevelopment in the county. Such as more affordable single-family dwellings to offer alternatives to manufactured housing and planned residential communities catering to the retired and elderly, such as patios/villas.

•The county has minimal vacant industrial parcels or floor space, which indicates the need for additional industrial properties.

•The county's downtown business district located on State Route 126, the Great Stage Road in Blountville, has become an active location for private and public service enterprises as the result of recent historic preservation activities.

•The cities are projected to be a primary provider of locations for large-scale and heavy industrial developments due to the availability of infrastructure.

•The water treatment capacities are adequate to meet the projected demands for future development. Sewer service will continue to be made available where feasible.

•Working in conjunction with the cities, water and sewer lines will continue to be upgraded or expanded pursuant to development trends and available funding.

•It may be necessary for the county to continue working closely with Bristol, Kingsport, Bluff City and Johnson City in regard to their urban growth plans and possible annexation when considering growth and the provision of necessary municipal services.

Torbett stressed the final plan will be used as a guide and will basically be a starting point.

"There's no way we can predict the future, but what we have to keep in mind is the trends we've seen," Torbett said. "There are so many variables that come into play - and those variables change."

State law requires that the plan be approved by the Planning Commission. Torbett recommends that it also be taken to the Sullivan County Commission for approval.

The Sullivan County Planning Commission will meet with Torbett, state planning staff, county Mayor Steve Godsey and others at noon Friday at the Sullivan County Office Building.

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