City Manager John Campbell explained the shift in the city’s annexation agenda to the Times-News last week.
“We knew this year there would not be as much (annexation) as the last two to three years based on the (Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s) discussions on trying to concentrate on areas that already had sewer,” Campbell said. “Plus, with the analysis of the CIP (capital improvement plan), we’re trying to make sure the capital investments did not have any major impact on (water and sewer) rates.”
Last fall, Campbell and public works officials proposed for the first time to extend the timeline for sewer lines to be installed in some annexed Colonial Heights neighborhoods, from the traditional five years to eight years. The change was proposed because Kingsport could not afford to install the sewer within the five-year time period without raising rates, and also given how much outstanding sewer work needed to be done in Rock Springs and other part of Colonial Heights.
Kingsport has $1.9 million of sewer work left to do in Rock Springs and $15.5 million in Colonial Heights. Kingsport’s sewer fund has $50.9 million in debt while $6.5 million (of its $14 million yearly budget) is going to debt service.
The Kingsport Regional Planning Commission and the BMA chose not to go with the eight-year timeline, saying the city should stick with the traditional five-year period. Campbell said because of this there will likely be a 1 to 2 percent increase in rates in the next fiscal year. Due to financial restrictions, Kingsport is now only looking to annex areas of Sullivan County that are already on sewer, rather than continue in Colonial Heights and begin in the Sullivan Gardens community. Campbell said this limitation doesn’t give Kingsport a whole lot of options for annexation this year.
“There are very few locations like that out there,” he said, identifying two subdivisions in the Fall Creek community, one of which may be targeted for annexation later this summer. Kingsport’s planning department has not started the process for annexation on either one though. Over the past six years, Kingsport has undertaken a fairly aggressive annexation policy, focusing on large tracts of land and filled-out neighborhoods in the communities of Rock Springs, Colonial Heights and Fall Creek, with some smaller, more business-oriented annexations near Interstates 81 and 26 and Eastern Star Road. From 2006 through 2012, Kingsport has annexed 4,875 acres of land in Sullivan County with more than 6,400 residents, primarily in the Rock Springs, Colonial Heights and Fall Creek communities.
In Colonial Heights alone, Kingsport has brought in nearly 2,300 residents. Campbell said he doesn’t think Kingsport has overextended itself in regards to annexation and believes the city should annex 80 to 90 percent of its urban growth boundary by the end of 2020. “We basically had a moratorium in the Colonial Heights area for 10 years.
We really could have done a lot more during that time period, but didn’t,” Campbell said. As to how Kingsport’s new annexation plans tie into the situation regarding the Sullivan County School System and the possible merger of Sullivan North and Sullivan South high schools, Campbell said Kingsport City Schools has the capacity to handle the 1,000 city residents currently enrolled in county schools. “It would be tight, but in talking to our schools, they feel we could handle those students,” Campbell said. “From my experience, I’d be surprised if 70 percent of those students would come into city schools.” In 2012, Kingsport’s planning department produced a three-year annexation plan, giving details and cost estimates on 13 annexation areas under consideration, three of which were approved in 2012.
The $36.3 million plan includes more than 5,400 acres and some 4,000 residents in Colonial Heights, Sullivan Gardens, and Fall Creek, along Cox Hollow Road, Reservoir Road and Airport Parkway. Some Eastman Chemical Co. property along Jared Drive and the entire BAE Systems property are also included in the plan. Annexation areas that were proposed for 2012 but did not take place include 200 acres along Reservoir Road and 948 acres on both sides of Sullivan Gardens Parkway.