One-time annexation opponent has change of heart

Matthew Lane • Mar 1, 2008 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — Steven Risk helped mount a successful fight against being annexed by the city of Kingsport in the early 1990s. Now, Risk says that was one of the biggest mistakes he ever made.

Risk, who has lived in Horse Creek Village since 1988, recently wrote a letter to the editor directed to the residents of Rock Springs, telling them to think about response times when considering annexation.

Kingsport has been working under a five-year annexation plan for the Rock Springs community, beginning with the annexation of “The Edinburgh” property and working back toward Interstate 26.

Seven areas have already been annexed, with plans to annex three more in May. Residents from six of the areas have filed lawsuits against the city to prevent being annexed; a seventh lawsuit is likely to come within the next couple of weeks.

Risk, who has been following the annexation fight in the Rock Springs community, tells the tale of his battle with the city and how he regrets his actions.

When Risk moved into Horse Creek Village in 1998, because of the money raised through the homeowners association the neighborhood had its own sewer treatment plant, streetlights, a neighborhood watch program and garbage collection.

Horse Creek Village was also on city water at the time.

“In 1990 or 1991, somebody in here was trying to get rid of the homeowners association and approached Kingsport about annexation,” Risk said. “We got together, and I wrote the suit and filed it myself and went to (Sullivan County) Chancery Court, and Judge McClellan advised we needed an attorney. I got ahold of Charlton DeVault, and he agreed to represent us.

“Basically, we got wound up and ready to go to court, and Kingsport discontinued their effort and dropped everything in trying to annex us.”

Risk does not work for the city of Kingsport. His wife is the executive director of Hunger First.

At the time of the annexation attempt, Risk said Horse Creek Village did not need the city of Kingsport — the neighborhood had a sewer treatment plant at 60 percent capacity, the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office and Sullivan West Volunteer Fire Department within three miles.

“We were sitting pretty good. We didn’t need the city,” Risk said.

Now, Risk says preventing Kingsport from annexing Horse Creek Village and the Highway 93 corridor was one of the biggest mistakes of his life.

When Kingsport extended its sewer line within 15 feet of the Horse Creek Village sewer treatment plant, Risk said the city did not require residents to hook on. However, Risk said a past president of the homeowners association took out the sewer treatment plant and sold the property. Therefore residents had to hook up to the city’s sewer system.

Kingsport did waive the hookup fee for Horse Creek residents.

“We were always on city water, but we treated our own sewage. Our water bills have doubled since then,” Risk said.

The main complaint Risk has now is with the SCSO’s response times, something he says Rock Springs residents should pay attention to.

“I’ve been peeved at the (sheriff’s department) because response times have suffered over the years. The county has grown, and I don’t feel like they have met the need because response times have been much more slow,” Risk said, noting response times have improved since he wrote the letter to the editor last month. “If the city were out here, we’d have better police coverage. We’ve also had trouble out of the Section 8 rentals; we have no recourse at all.”

Risk said he would like for the city to annex him now, but his home now lies outside the urban growth boundary.

“We’re just outside of it. It ends at Mill Creek. I’ve already asked the city, but there’s no way they could,” Risk said, adding he grew up in Kingsport and holds no grudges against the city. “I just feel like the city would benefit us at this time.”

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