Error delays annexation in Rock Springs

Matthew Lane • Aug 19, 2008 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — The annexation of more than 500 residents in the Rock Springs community has been delayed by about six weeks due to the city making a mistake, in that the public hearing notices never made it to the newspaper.

Two weeks ago during its regular meeting, the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously voted to annex the remaining portions of Areas 7 and 8 (approximately 360 acres) in the Rock Springs community. The effective date of these annexations would have been Sept. 5.

However, city staff informed the BMA Monday afternoon that the legal notices for these annexations never made to the newspaper. State law requires the city to run a legal notice in the newspaper seven days prior to a public hearing on an annexation. Kingsport runs its notices 15 days prior.

“It came to our attention the ads never made it to the paper,” said City Planner Forrest Koder.

Someone called the city and wanted to see the legal notice, but Koder said city staff could not find the paperwork and realized the notice never made it to the newspaper.

So the BMA on Tuesday approved emergency ordinances repealing the annexation of Areas 7 and 8.

Kingsport has worked since 2006 to annex approximately 1,000 acres in the Rock Springs community — eight areas that lead up to two major developments off Rock Springs Road: a 330-home neighborhood called “The Edinburgh” and the city’s new John Adams Elementary School.

Seven of the 10 annexation areas (two areas were split into four smaller areas) have already been annexed by the city. However, lawsuits filed by some residents in those areas have prevented them from officially being annexed. Those six lawsuits have been combined and are scheduled to go to trial in early January 2009.

If Areas 7 and 8 had come into the city, any potential lawsuits regarding these areas could have argued the annexations were invalid because the city failed to follow state law and advertise the public hearings seven days in advance.

“What we’re trying to do is correct that mistake. It’s a bit of a delay but not that crucial,” Koder said.

The BMA could have rescinded the annexations at its Sept. 2 meeting. However, Mayor Dennis Phillips canceled that meeting in light of the Labor Day holiday.

“In order to keep them from becoming effective, the best way to remedy this was to file an emergency ordinance repealing the annexations,” Koder said.

City planners intend to run the legal notice for these two annexations and bring them back — along with the remaining portions of Area 6 — to the BMA on Sept. 16.

Because of the lawsuits, the city put the annexation of Areas 6, 7 and 8 on hold for 90 days earlier this year in order to give property owners in those areas who wanted to be annexed a chance to request annexation. Several property owners in those areas came forward, with those in Areas 7 and 8 annexed earlier this summer.

As for voluntary annexations in Area 6, the BMA voted on final reading Tuesday night to bring four property owners (30 acres) into the city.

Once all eight areas come into the city, city staff are considering switching the 2008 annexation areas with the 2010 annexation areas due to a number of failing septic tank systems in the Hidden Acres subdivision, which city officials say need to be addressed with sanitary sewer.

In other business Tuesday night the BMA voted 3-2 to approve the rezoning of 75 parcels in the downtown area from M-1 (light industrial) and M-2 (general industrial) to B-2 (general business). Aldermen Ken Marsh and Pat Shull voted against the rezoning.

The impetus for this rezoning began earlier this year when Phillips requested that the Kingsport Regional Planning Commission initiate a study to determine the appropriate land use designation for the industrial property in downtown.

The reasons behind the rezoning — as discussed at a Kingsport Economic Development Board meeting — would be to help improve one of the main gateways into the downtown area and to prevent the owner of the foundry property from putting a metal reclamation facility on the site.

The study area included 85 parcels along Main and Sullivan Street and the Dobyns-Taylor warehouse site off Press Street. Planners recommended rezoning all of the property except the rail line and rail “Y” west of Main Street. The Planning Commission voted 7-0 to approve this recommendation.

However on Tuesday, Marsh, who serves on the Planning Commission and voted to recommend the rezoning, changed his mind, saying he did not think the rezoning was timely.

Marsh gave several reasons why he changed his mind — no property owner requested the rezoning, and there was no shortage of B-2 zoning in the downtown area.

“I view this as anti-manufacturing,” Marsh said, adding the foundry property is one of the better industrial sites Kingsport has, with rail service, flat land and utilities.

“Making it B-2 guts the potential use of that property for manufacturing,” he said.

Phillips said he was “absolutely appalled” with Marsh’s reversal.

“You would sit on a board as a member of the Planning Commission and recommend it to the (BMA) and then spend five minutes arguing against this?” Phillips said. “Because the Planning Commission is not on TV you can vote for it, then when it comes to the BMA you argue against it.”

Phillips said the BMA could always go back and change the zoning to manufacturing.

“The purpose was to get an eyesore cleaned up at the main entrance to downtown. If we’re serious about making the entranceways to Kingsport better, we need to vote for it,” Phillips said. “At one time manufacturing was a major part of downtown. Today, downtown has a different use.”

Marsh said he had changed his mind and resented the personal attack. Shull came to Marsh’s defense and said there was no call for such attacks. Phillips said Marsh’s reversals happen over and over, and maybe the BMA should consider another alderman for the Planning Commission.

Vice Mayor Ben Mallicote said he saw the rezoning as the absolutely right thing to do.

“Zoning this as B-2 ... nothing prevents us from marketing this as a potential industrial site,” Mallicote said. “This board has shown great willingness to rezone things when the situation warrants.

“We do not limit the potential to site an industry there. From every standpoint, this makes a world of sense and is the most responsible thing for this board to do.”

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