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Developer plans new round of appeals in property dispute with Johnson City

COREY SHOUN • Feb 16, 2007 at 10:51 AM

JOHNSON CITY - Continued waits and a new series of appeals are the name of the game now for Stewart Taylor, as development of his controversial property in Johnson City hangs in limbo.

Though a circuit court judge recently dismissed his lawsuit against the city, which was aimed at obtaining a residential building permit for his tract located at the corner of West Market Street and North State of Franklin Road, Taylor said Friday he plans to appeal that ruling and has already taken steps to receive a hearing before the city's Board of Zoning Appeals.

However, that appeal before the BZA will now have to wait until April, as Taylor's filing was deemed incomplete by city officials and the Feb. 15 deadline to have items placed on the BZA's March meeting agenda has now passed.

"The packet they sent to (Chief Building Official) Steve Shell to file for an appeal was incomplete. It didn't include the ($120) processing fee," Planning Director Jim Donnelly said.

"I sent him a letter on Thursday telling him what the fee is and telling him we'd process his request when the fee is received."

The process for Taylor to receive a building permit that would allow him to construct condominiums on his 8.6-acre site has been on hold for more than a year.

Judge Jean Stanley dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that Taylor did not follow proper administrative procedure when he filed suit before making an appeal to the BZA. Taylor's attorney, Arthur Seymour, contended in court that the city never actually denied Taylor's request for a building permit, which would have clearly paved the way for an appeal to the BZA.

Shell, named in the suit along with Donnelly, said the full review process was not followed due to mitigating circumstances. Shell said James Epps IV, associate legal counsel for the city, advised him not to continue the review process due to pending action on rezoning ordinances that involve Taylor's property.

The city initiated consideration of a rezoning for the middle anchor of the Med Tech Corridor, including Taylor's parcel, to RTP planned research/technology. Taylor has also requested a rezoning to MS-1 medical/commercial zoning.

Both rezoning ordinances were deferred yet again by the City Commission during Thursday night's regular meeting. Both had been on hold since September pending completion of a Med Tech Corridor usage study that was finished last week.

A portion of the study suggests the best zoning for Taylor's property would be MS-1, but Taylor requested that the commission not take a vote because Vice Mayor Phil Roe, who has supported the measure in the past, was not present.

"We just want to keep this thing moving," Taylor said of his planned appeals. "It could become moot, if (the commission) approves MS-1."

Controversy has surrounded what is commonly known as the former Tennessee Valley Authority property, which Taylor purchased by outbidding the city at auction in December 2003, for several years. In November 2005, Taylor removed four large, and very old, beech trees from the property after the commission voted down a rezoning request that would have allowed Bob Pearman, who had been leasing the property from Taylor, to construct a combination retail/restaurant development at the site.

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