KEDB approves purchase of Fritz property for River Walk

Rick Wagner • Dec 3, 2008 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — The Kingsport Economic Development Board will end 2008 having purchased another piece of property for the city’s River Walk project.

And KEDB officials said they likely will start 2009 with a push to encourage Sullivan County leaders to support an airport authority for Tri-Cities Regional Airport.

KEDB Chairman Larry Estepp thanked board members at Tuesday morning’s meeting for their e-mail vote to approve purchase of the Fritz property for $85,000.

He said that represented a $15,000 increase over an earlier offer of $70,000, with the $15,000 in additional money designated as relocation money. It already has bought more than $61,000 in property for the River Walk, which is to include a park and integrate into the Greenbelt walking paths along the Holston River near Netherland Inn.

KEDB on Tuesday also unanimously approved the issuance of $10 million to $11 million in bonds for repair and renovations by Kingsport Model City LP, a not-for-profit entity, to the 30-year-old Model City Apartments.

Attorney Campbell Brown said the project and bonds were the same ones KEDB approved last year and should get under way by the second quarter of 2009.

He said the project would have been done this year if it were not for the turmoil in the financial markets.

KEDB officials also have closed on the $85,000 purchase of the old Quillen-Mullins property, known as the Glutz property, adjacent to the old Kingsport Foundry. KEDB approved that purchase by telephone before its November meeting, and officials said the old building there will be demolished soon.

KEDB earlier this year purchased the old Jack’s Restaurant/Karen’s Restaurant site at 808 E. Main St., next to the old foundry, for $143,167 and plans to lease it for $2,500 a month to Robert Thompson and his daughter, Crystal Stone, who plan to open an oyster bar there.

KEDB officials are still in contact with the owner of the old foundry property in efforts to purchase it for use as a “gateway” to the city until it develops.

On Tuesday, KEDB members discussed but took no action on a proposal by airport liaison Ken Maness for KEDB and other economic development groups to help lead the way on formation of an airport authority to govern the airport.

The plan, in the works for more than four years but intensified in the past 18 months, went off track earlier this month when the Sullivan County Commission voted 21-3 to rescind its earlier approval of the concept.

Airport Commission appointments would remain with the six owners: Sullivan County, Kingsport, Bristol, Tenn., Bristol, Va., Washington County and Johnson City.

The other five owners remain on record favoring the airport authority. If the General Assembly approved a private act for the authority and it was adopted by all six governments, the authority would be created.

Airport authorities are a type of local government. They take liability away from the owners and allow quicker decisions on some issues now requiring approval from all six governing bodies.

Maness, an airport commissioner, and Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips said the commission’s vote was spurred by an unrelated annexation request to Kingsport from the Fall Creek area and had nothing to do with the benefits or potential pitfalls of an airport aut h o r i t y.

Phillips said he believes county officials will revisit the issue.

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