KINGSPORT — Kingsport leaders would like to assure the members of the Sullivan County Commission that the city would not be extinguishing any campfires in Warriors Path State Park.
Kingsport is looking to annex 255 acres of Warriors Path State Park in order to reach a 25-acre parcel off Fall Creek Road where developers hope to build a 140-home subdivision. Kingsport planners have said the city could not annex down Fall Creek Road from Fort Henry Drive because it would create a doughnut hole — property completely surrounded by the city limits — which is against state law.
Kingsport is under a moratorium until 2010 to not annex certain property in Colonial Heights. Some property along Fall Creek Road lies within the moratorium area.
Last week the Sullivan County Commission voted unanimously to approve a resolution against the city annexing any portion of Warriors Path. Even though City Attorney Dan Street said the park would not change if annexed by the city, some commissioners said they fear annexation could change the park, such as with the city’s ban on outdoor fires.
“We assume state law would prevail over things like campfires. We are clarifying that and plan to get (the Board of Mayor and Aldermen) an opinion on that,” said City Manager John Campbell. “Even if for some reason it was in question, we would certainly create some kind of exception so that would not be a problem.”
Campbell said there is no desire on the part of the city to curtail any park activities.
“If anything we’d like to see the park have even more activities,” Campbell said. “Camping is a strong feature of the park, so I don’t see us affecting that at all.”
Warriors Path State Park is not located within the Colonial Heights moratorium area and is within the city’s urban growth boundary — a boundary established and approved by Kingsport, Sullivan County and Hawkins County in 2000. The boundary essentially outlines where Kingsport has the right to annex by ordinance at any time as long as certain services are provided within certain times.
“All of this was supposed to be worked out during the urban growth situation, and the park is in the urban growth boundary. Sometimes people say things without checking, and we all do that,” said Mayor Dennis Phillips. “I don’t think there’s any way the city of Kingsport is going stop campfires in Warriors Path or any way we’re going to make any changes.”
Another fear is Kingsport is annexing a portion of Warriors Path as a precursor to annexing Colonial Heights. Campbell dismissed this rumor.
“I think unfortunately people assume we’re going to be real aggressive in annexing Colonial Heights. That’s not going to be the case as long as I’m here. I think 2010 doesn’t mean the gates are unloaded and we’re ready to roll. I just don’t see the practicality of annexing in that kind of size,” Campbell said. “Certainly over time I would think most of Colonials Heights would be in the city, if for no other reason a lot of them are going to need sewer. You’ve got a lot of old septic systems that are going to get older and older. Plus some people are going to need upgraded water lines.
“I think people are assuming too much to think ... the top priority is to get Colonial Heights. That’s not the case at all. We have other areas that make more sense to deal with in broader size, and that’s where we’ll look at first.”