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Johnson City leadersapprove rezoning forformer TVA property

COREY SHOUN • Mar 5, 2007 at 11:21 AM

JOHNSON CITY - Stewart Taylor might have finally gotten what he has wanted from the Johnson City Commission for about two years, though development of the former Tennessee Valley Authority property will still experience delays.

The City Commission approved first reading of Taylor's request to have his property, located at the corner of West Market Street and North State of Franklin Road, rezoned from an R-4 residential designation to MS-1 mixed commercial/medical services.

Though final passage of the rezoning ordinance will take approval on two more readings by the commission, Thursday night's action provides at least some indication that it will likely succeed where other requests have failed.

Mayor Steve Darden had been the swing vote among a split commission when a rezoning was last presented to the commission. In November 2005, Darden voted against a request by Bob Pearman, who had been leasing the property from Taylor in hopes of constructing a retail/restaurant development, to rezone the 8.6-acre tract to a PB planned business designation.

Following an opinion rendered last month by Market Street Services Inc. - the Atlanta consulting firm contracted by the city, East Tennessee State University and Mountain States Health Alliance to perform an updated study of the Med Tech Corridor - Darden made a decision on the vote.

"I guess I've become resigned, not happy about it, that MS-1 is the appropriate zoning," Darden said. "The best deal, the best scenario imaginable, was before us in December 2002. But this is where we are, and we can't fret about where we've been."

Darden was referring to a prior request to rezone the property to MS-1, which was made by MSHA when that organization held an option to buy the property from the federal government. MSHA had agreed to a set of concessions, including no development of fast-food restaurants and the placement of a Walgreens pharmacy across North State of Franklin on property already owned by MSHA, that made it "MS-1 light," Darden said.

However, concern over a grove of beech trees, since removed by Taylor, created controversy that ultimately led to the rezoning ordinance failing when Commissioners Pete Paduch and Ricky Mohon and former Vice Mayor C.H. Charlton voted against the measure on third reading.

Taylor purchased the property for $3.1 million at auction in December 2003 by outbidding the city. His rezoning request and a request for a residential building permit had both been put on hold for several months. Taylor's suit against the city for a building permit was recently dismissed by Circuit Judge Jean Stanley.

Taylor, who was not present Thursday night, has also said he would like to bring a Walgreens to that corner lot along with medical service buildings and other office space.

New holdups for development will now likely come from issues surrounding site plan approval.

City officials and commissioners have expressed concerns over traffic congestion at that intersection, widely considered to be the busiest in Johnson City. Likewise, plans presented by Taylor that include left-turn egress on both the West Market and State of Franklin sides of the property have created worries.

"One of my major concerns with that piece of property is the site plan," Darden said.

Darden, Vice Mayor Phil Roe and Commissioner Jane Myron voted in favor of Taylor's MS-1 request, while Paduch voted against and Mohon was not present during the vote. Second reading and continued public hearing for the item will occur at the March 15 commission meeting.

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