Kingsport Planning Commission: Bell Ridge annexation should stay the same

Matthew Lane • Sep 24, 2007 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — The Kingsport Regional Planning Commission will be sending back its original recommendation for the Bell Ridge annexation to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen next month.

Last month the Planning Commission recommended the annexation of 72 acres of land and 45 residents in the Carters Valley community. The annexation area included 2,650 feet of Bell Ridge Road and 120 feet of Mackenzie Drive, no commercial property and one agricultural parcel.

About half of the residents petitioned to come into the city, while the other half complained about the annexation and expressed a desire to be left out of the proposed area. City Manager John Campbell met with city planners, and the decision was made to exclude those residents who wished to remain in the county.

The BMA heard from some of the residents last month and agreed to send the revised annexation area back to the Planning Commission. The area went from one large area to two smaller, separate areas connected by a road — 28 acres instead of 72, 23 residents instead of 45, and eight homes instead of 15.

However, planning commissioners voted Thursday night to stick with their original recommendation. During a Planning Commission work session last week Alderman Ken Marsh, who serves on the commission, argued for the original proposal saying the city should annex broad areas instead of small areas at a time.

Marsh said some members of the BMA failed to understand the issue when they sent it back to the Planning Commission last month.

“Some on the BMA have no stomach for any kind of opposition. We’d never annex anything if we have this sort of policy,” Marsh said. “Some members of the BMA think annexation is all wine and roses. You’ve got to take the bitter with the sweet.”

“I feel this is an all or nothing,” said Commissioner Collette George.

Mayor Dennis Phillips, who served on the Planning Commission for six years, said he would wait to see what the commission sends back to the BMA before commenting.

“If you go against the Planning Commission, you have to give it serious consideration,” Phillips said. “I’d like to see what reasons they’ve given before I jumped up there and formed an opinion.”

Campbell said his approach to the situation would be to annex the ones who wanted to come into the city and leave those out who chose not to, as long as there was a clear delineation of annexation lines. Both versions of the Bell Ridge annexation would comply with the planning department’s official annexation policy.

“If you were to do ideal annexation, you would take areas in a very logical, very well-defined way that would look neat on a map,” Campbell said. “Some situations makes it tough on police and fire and garbage pickup, but we’re more sophisticated today than we were 20 years ago with GIS systems and 911 centers. It’s a lot easier to tell where residents lie, either in or out of the city.”

One reason city officials have used to justify infill annexations — such as with Bell Ridge — is because public services (police, fire and garbage pickup) have a hard time determining who is in the city and who is not.

If you look at a map of West Carters Valley, you’ll see the city limits looking like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle. Planners say this annexation is an attempt to clear up this situation by bringing in property to fill in the empty spaces.

Alan Webb, planning manager for the city of Kingsport, said the problem with Bell Ridge is no annexation plan was crafted when sewer lines were installed to the Carters Valley area.

“There were no certain areas scheduled for annexation in certain years with funding allocated for water and sewer installation,” Webb said, noting the original sewer installation never came before the Planning Commission. “Now we’re trying to do infill in those areas. We’re trying to play catch-up with the Bell Ridge area, and it’s not a total annexation plan, so that’s why it’s hard to figure out the right way or wrong way.”

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