The BMA is expected to consider the Bell Ridge annexation during its regular meeting tonight. City leaders spent about an hour discussing the annexation during a work session Monday afternoon and left with an unusually divided board on how to approach the matter.
In June, the Kingsport Regional 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 planners included property not originally requested because it made a logical boundary with the city limits and the property requested.
The BMA heard from some of the residents in August and agreed to send a revised annexation area back to the Planning Commission. The area went from one large area to two smaller, separate areas connected by a road — 24 acres instead of 72, 23 residents instead of 45, and eight homes instead of 15.
However, planning commissioners voted in September to stick with their original recommendation.
As it stands now, the proposal before the BMA tonight is of the original property owners who requested annexation. After the August reduction, one property owner who petitioned in reversed his decision to be annexed.
Alderman Ken Marsh argued for the annexation, pointing out the city already provides fire protection for the area and students are allowed to go to city schools up through the fifth grade. According to city planners, an agreement made years ago allows some students in the Carters Valley area to go to city schools through fifth grade without paying tuition.
“This is a very logical step forward,” Marsh said.
Vice Mayor Ben Mallicote argued against the annexation, saying it is of no great strategic value to the city.
“I’d vote to not annex any of this property. There’s no strategic reason,” Mallicote said, noting the cost associated with the annexation.
According to city planners, the one-time cost associated with the annexation is $369,280 — $171,000 for water line upgrades, $196,000 for sewer line installation and $2,280 for street lighting.
The one key thing that bothers Mayor Dennis Phillips is the city took it upon itself to add property to the annexation proposal that was never requested initially.
“We made a serious mistake in monkeying with what we were asked to do. We don’t need to look at anything more than what we’re asked to,” Phillips said.
“It doesn’t make any sense without squaring it up,” Alderman Valerie Joh said. “I don’t want to turn down those who want to be annexed. I don’t think we take one person here and there.”
City Manager John Campbell said the city could annex these properties now and come back at a later time with the properties taken out. Campbell also reminded city leaders there are seven students in the proposed annexation area.
“Each student will bring nearly $6,000 to the school system. That is something to not forget about,” Campbell said.
Alderman Pat Shull recommended the item be pulled from Tuesday’s agenda until the BMA agrees to a policy regarding annexation requests.
Joh said it wouldn’t matter what annexation policy the BMA came up with.
“We’d have the same argument the next time it came up. There’s no use hammering out a policy because it would change with the next annexation,” Joh said. “We need to go back to the Planning Commission and say please forgive us for not taking it twice already.”
Marsh, who serves on the Planning Commission, warned the BMA about rejecting the proposal.
“It could damage our relationship with the Planning Commission if we keep rejecting what they recommend to you or we need to change the annexation policy so they follow some other policy,” Marsh said.
Kingsport has a five-year annexation plan (which focuses on Rock Springs and Sullivan Gardens) and an annexation policy, both of which were approved by the Planning Commission last year. The BMA endorsed both but did not officially adopt either. By law, it doesn’t have to.
The city’s annexation policy states that Kingsport should consider the financial impact of annexation and to annex in order to provide urban services to unincorporated areas that the county cannot provide, to prevent sprawl, to create opportunities for new development, and to achieve long-term growth strategies.
The policy includes procedures for different magnitudes of annexation — small scale (one or two parcels), small group (10 or fewer parcels), large area/neighborhood, and corridor annexations — and states that all annexations would include the cost to city departments, including schools; that Kingsport should develop annexation proposals on infill areas adjacent to the city limits; and that boundaries should be drawn in a logical manner.
An informal poll of the BMA Monday night found Shull and Mallicote opposed to the annexation with at least four members in support.
Mallicote said the city should look at a mechanism to allow students in that area of the county to remain in Kingsport City Schools — something Marsh and Joh said would be a mistake.
The BMA meets for its regular meeting at City Hall at 7 p.m. tonight.