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JC Commission won't vote on Taylor property

COREY SHOUN • May 2, 2007 at 11:21 AM

JOHNSON CITY - Two departing Johnson City commissioners had hoped the fate of the former Tennessee Valley Authority property could be decided tonight. Alas, their swan song is not likely to play out in that fashion.

Outgoing Commissioners Ricky Mohon and Pete Paduch each voiced a desire during the panel's meeting two weeks ago to see the rezoning item finally reach a vote on third reading after months of deferrals and years of controversy. However, property owner Stewart Taylor on Wednesday said a site plan will not be presented to the City Commission tonight, as it is not ready, leaving the prospects for a final decision in serious jeopardy.

"My site plans simply aren't ready yet," Taylor said. "My (potential) tenants haven't signed off on the plans and gotten back to us."

Taylor would not identify the possible tenants, retail or otherwise, for his 8.6-acre tract located at the corner of West Market Street and North State of Franklin Road. The property is currently zoned as R-4 residential but has been approved for rezoning to MS-1 medical/commercial on two readings.

Walgreens has been the topic of much discussion concerning the site. Though Taylor said he has never "personally" had discussions with the company, he did say the continued delays could make reaching a deal more difficult.

"They have their favorite sites, but they will look at other places if things drag on for too long, I'd imagine."

Mayor Steve Darden, who has been the "swing vote" among the current five commissioners when it has come to previous rezoning requests for the property, said he is prepared to vote on the item, but only if Taylor's best possible site plan is presented.

Though Paduch and Mohon have consistently voted against rezoning plans for that site that involve commercial aspects, Taylor said he is not seeking a deferral simply because he believes his chances might be better when Jeff Banyas and Marcy Walker replace Paduch and Mohon on the panel.

Vice Mayor Phil Roe, who was re-elected on April 24, and Commissioner Jane Myron have supported Taylor's request, though both have voiced a desire for a stepped-up site plan that accounts for traffic concerns.

"If I can get my site plans ready for the May 17 meeting, hopefully we can get it done then," Taylor said.

The city inauguration will take place May 7.

While items involving site plans have been removed, consideration of the actual rezoning ordinance remains on tonight's agenda.

Though proper zoning and use of the property has been debated since the federal government decided to vacate it several years ago, the commission seemed to be on the verge of approving Taylor's request after a recent Med Tech Corridor study suggested the tract should, in fact, be zoned MS-1.

In November 2005, the commission on third reading voted down a request by Bob Pearman, who had been leasing the property from Taylor in hopes of constructing a retail/restaurant development, to rezone the tract to a PB planned business designation.

A prior request to rezone the property to MS-1, made by Mountain States Health Alliance when that organization held an option to buy the property from the federal government, also failed on third reading in December 2002.

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 have both been put on hold for several months. Taylor's suit against the city for a residential building permit was recently dismissed by Circuit Judge Jean Stanley.

Following that dismissal, Taylor made an appeal to the city Board of Zoning Appeals for an administrative review of the non-issuance, but that panel was unsure how to proceed in the matter. The commission has approved having City Attorney James Epps III put together a list of potential attorneys to assist the BZA in this matter.

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