JOHNSON CITY - Stewart Taylor has wanted new zoning for his property, located at the corner of West Market Street and North State of Franklin Road, for more than a year.
Taylor might get his wish now that a consulting group has recommended such a designation to the Johnson City Commission.
The study - performed by Market Street Services Inc., an Atlanta consulting firm - is not yet complete, but a draft version of the final report has been presented to some city and community leaders.
After obtaining a copy of the draft, Taylor's attorney T. Arthur "Buddy" Scott wrote a letter to City Manager Pete Peterson "demanding" that Taylor's long-delayed rezoning request be readdressed by the commission "at the earliest possible time."
"Now that the draft report of Market Street consultants has been presented and its conclusions relative to the 8.6 acres of the former TVA property are known, there is no reason to delay action on the request by my client," Scott stated in his letter to Peterson.
"Having deferred action on this request in order to receive ‘meaningful guidance,' the commission should now act and rezone the property MS-1 (mixed medical/commercial)."
Scott's letter also includes a portion of text from the Market Street Services report, which reads, "Market Street believes that an MS-1 (Medical Services District) zoning designation would be appropriate, allowing flexibility as well as compatibility for medical uses, offices and retail/commercial uses."
On Wednesday, Mayor Steve Darden stressed that the document obtained by Taylor was not final and would not likely be acted on by the commission until completion.
"I want to emphasize the product ... is an economic development plan, not a land-use study," Darden said. "It contains a very complex set of recommendations. We expect to receive the final document by the end of this month or early in February."
Darden also indicated that while the consultants' recommendation is not tantamount to automatic action by the commission, it will certainly weigh on the panel's final decision.
"The consultants' report constitutes guidance, and the city staff's recommendation also falls into the category of useful guidance, too," Darden said. "When we specifically asked the consultants to weigh in on the former TVA property ... we knew they might recommend RTP (planned research/technology), MS-1, residential or something they had seen work elsewhere. As it turns out, it's pretty much a straightforward MS-1 recommendation."
More than a year ago, the commission followed a recommendation by planning staff and initiated consideration of a rezoning for much of the middle anchor of the Med Tech Corridor, including Taylor's parcel, from its current R-4 residential zoning to RTP. Concurrently, the commission has been considering Taylor's request.
Consideration of both rezoning ordinances has been on hold pending results of the study. Also on hold is the process for Taylor to receive a building permit that would allow him to construct condominiums, allowed under R-4 zoning, on the 8.6-acre site.
Because of that, Taylor has sued the city in hopes of obtaining a building permit.
"They've held me off ... it's been like 450 days, from getting a permit," Taylor said. "If they follow the consultants' recommendation, that's great, I'm happy. I don't know what to expect from the City Commission."
Taylor said he has accumulated between $700,000 to $800,000 in legal fees, interest and property taxes since he has owned the property.
Darden said he doesn't believe the pending legal action will further defer consideration of the rezoning ordinances once the study is finalized.
"I don't think we would hold off on a vote," Darden said. "My belief is that Mr. Taylor would rather have it rezoned MS-1 than have it remain residential."
"We wanted the benefits of the consultants' wisdom and experience for a decision on this property. That wasn't quick enough for Mr. Taylor, but we were trying to do it in a responsible way," Darden said.
The mayor also pointed to a section of the study that states the city, as well as East Tennessee State University and Mountain States Health Alliance - the three entities commissioned the $90,000 study as a joint venture - should work "in good faith" with Taylor on his development, as it will have an effect on the surrounding area.
"I hope he would follow in the spirit of the consultants' opinion," Darden said.
Darden said the study has actually "gone beyond the geography of the (Med Tech) Corridor from a location standpoint" and should prove to be a "very useful document to help grow economic development in Johnson City."
He said Market Street Services representatives have indicated they are prepared to present and explain the study in a public setting once the final version has been presented to city, ETSU and MSHA leaders.