Food City proposes Roller Street solution

Matthew Lane • May 27, 2013 at 5:25 PM

KINGSPORT — Could the Roller Street “nightmare” finally be over? Steve Smith, CEO and president of K-VA-T Foods (the owners of Food City) told city leaders last week that a good alternative has been proposed.

“It’ll help Food City, help the city and provide an option to where James (Phillips) wants to do with the apartments,” Smith said.

The so-called Roller Street “nightmare” — as Mayor Dennis Phillips recently called the issue — involves two empty lots on Roller Street, given to the city of Kingsport from Quebecor World in 2007 as part of the 20-acre Quebecor site.

Last fall, Phillips pushed for the properties to be included on a list of surplus properties the city could potentially sell, noting at the time his son James might be interested. Around the same time, ETSU was looking to bring a campus to the new Food City shopping center and would likely need the Roller Street properties for parking.

Another wrinkle has been added with the carousel project and its need for additional property along Clinchfield Street, now owned by Food City. City Manager John Campbell has been negotiating with Food City to either purchase that property or possibly swap it for the Roller Street property.

After months of talks and no swap in sight, Phillips criticized the negotiations and pushed for the properties to be sold at auction, which took place last month with Food City having the high bid of $115,000. However, since bids could be accepted after the auction and up until the Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the sale, James Phillips came in with a counter-offer the following week.

In the end, the BMA tabled the matter.

On Monday, Smith said he met with James Phillips and came up with options to where Food City would have enough parking for the ETSU campus and James Phillips could still build his apartments.

“I’d like to offer $200,000 for both (Roller Street) properties, the one we didn’t bid on and the one we did,” Smith said, noting Food City will be able to get 75 parking spaces out of the properties. “In the initial state, we think that is enough.”

Initially, James Phillips said he planned on building 28 to 36 apartments on the site and possibly a small dog park. On Monday, he said the plan is to buy a portion of the Roller Street property from Food City and build 20 apartments on the site.

The smaller Roller Street lot is .38 acres and appraised for $83,700 while the larger lot is .84 acres and appraised for $91,800. No one bid on the smaller lot at last month’s auction. Campbell recommended the sale, saying Food City’s offer was $5,000 over the appraised value.

During its regular meeting Tuesday, the BMA approved selling the two lots to Food City for $200,000.

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