NETWORKS moving forward with second industrial park

Rick Wagner • Feb 22, 2007 at 8:51 AM

BLOUNTVILLE - Sullivan County will be asked to pay almost $1.7 million as its share of land costs for a proposed 223-acre business and industrial park near Bristol, Tenn.

Kingsport's share is just over $1 million.

The NETWORKS – Sullivan Partnership board, in a unanimous voice vote Thursday at Northeast State Technical Community College, accepted the proposed Partnership Park II project, which would be on land off state Route 394 just outside the Bristol city limits.

"This is why NETWORKS is here," NETWORKS CEO Richard Venable said of the joint effort in which costs and revenues are shared proportionally. "This is what NETWORKS is."

Venable said he will approach local government leaders with the land acquisition costs per entity, based on predetermined percentages set by population figures.

Sullivan County would bear the brunt of the $3.29 million purchase price at 51 percent or $1.68 million. Kingsport would pay 31 percent or $1.02 million, followed by Bristol at 17 percent or $560,048 and Bluff City with $32,944.

Development costs for a road to serve the park would run a total of $12.15 million, but the state of Tennessee and federal sources might provide grants and financial assistance.

Under NETWORKS, entering its third year of operation, the four participating localities share expenses and revenues by the same proportions, although annexation could play a role in the project.

"Richard is right. NETWORKS was set up to do joint ventures with the cities and county all partnering," said Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips, who was out of town and did not attend the meeting. "It will have to make sense for everyone. We'll certainly have to have a lot more information."

Partnership Park I is located in the Blountville area near Tri-Cities Regional Airport.

The proposed Partnership Park II adjoins the Bristol Metals site on one end, and that company has expressed interest in buying some of the land.

The other end adjoins some farming and residential areas near the 97-acre Bristol Business Park, which has a regional Media General printing plant as its sole tenant so far.

Under questioning by Sullivan County Mayor Steve Godsey, Bristol Deputy City Manager of Community Development Mike Sparks said the property, zoned agricultural, is at the edge of the city limits and in Bristol's urban growth boundary, meaning the city could annex it. Or, he said, it could remain outside the city limits. Either way, Sparks said it must be rezoned to allow industrial use and also mixed industrial and commercial use.

Godsey after the meeting said he didn't know how the County Commission would feel about the request, although Commissioner and board member Ralph Harr of Bristol spoke in favor of it Thursday.

The first of seven purchase options is set to expire May 14, prompting a timeline for land purchase funding approval in March, an intergovernmental agreement in April, and Sullivan County to issue road bonds in May.

Sparks said the property is about an eight-minute drive from Interstate 81 and has rail access, both pluses. The Tennessee Valley Authority began helping study it for development in 2001.

The property includes a brownfield, arsenic contamination of groundwater from Bristol Metals' pickling of stainless steel pipe, but Venable and Sparks said future owners would be held harmless from that. Sparks said Bristol Metals is about halfway through a 30-year remediation.

The only limits on that section of property are that it cannot be used for residential, and no wells can be dug.

In other action, the board voted to approve the draft 2007-08 budget of $732,000, up 5.48 percent from the 2006-07 budget. Venable said almost all the increase - which will have to be approved by the four governing bodies to take effect - and some cuts in line items went toward boosting the marketing budget.

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