KINGSPORT — The Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a controversial annexation in the Fall Creek community Tuesday night, where a Rock Springs couple plan to develop a new 102-home subdivision.
During its regular meeting Tuesday night, the BMA approved the annexation of a 25-acre parcel of land off Fall Creek Road. Kenneth and Anita Bates purchased the land last May and requested annexation with the plan to develop the property into a new subdivision called “Chase Meadows.”
City planners and the Kingsport Regional Planning Commission had recommended annexing 255 acres of Warriors Path State Park to reach the development. However, after city leaders and officials received numerous complaints and concerns from Fall Creek residents about the route, City Manager John Campbell recommended the city annex the road through the park to reach the development and not annex any of the park property.
This route is cheaper on the front end but has higher yearly costs in the long run.
“Since there was so much concern and to not make that an issue in this particular case, if we had another alternative, then why not go there,” Campbell said.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the BMA accepted Campbell’s recommendation and annexed 2.47 miles of road through the park to reach the Bates property.
When word of the annexation reached the Fall Creek community, many residents came together to oppose the move. Some have formed an unofficial group — the Coalition Against Fall Creek Annexation — and have met with city officials and BMA members about the annexation and the development.
A number of Fall Creek residents spoke during Monday’s BMA work session and again during the Tuesday night meeting. The BMA spent about an hour Tuesday night discussing the annexation and receiving comments from the public — from those opposed and from the developers — the Bateses.
Nearby residents were concerned with the house density being proposed for Chase Meadows, the increased traffic, and the impact the development would have on the park.
“I am not opposed to the growth of Kingsport. I am concerned about Chase Meadows and what’s going in there. I’m immediately adjacent, and it could be an asset, but it could have a negative impact,” said Gerald Latham, president of the Warrior Falls homeowners association. “My biggest concern is the unknown at this stage.”
Kenneth Bates said the development plan depends on whether or not the property is annexed, and once annexed the city would soon be receiving the plan.
Latham also complained about the lack of notification from the city regarding the annexation and zoning of the Bates property. For an annexation, by state law Kingsport only has to advertise a public hearing and map of the site and is not required to notify adjacent property owners.
Latham asked for a copy of the development plan, a chance to offer public input on the plan prior to Planning Commission approval, assurance that what is proposed will be done, and a change in city policy to notify county residents of any zoning change.
City leaders said the planning department would contact nearby Fall Creek residents about the development plan and when it is expected to go before the Planning Commission — actions not required by state law or city policy.
After several people spoke against the development, Kenneth Bates took the podium and spoke in favor of the annexation. Bates, who has lived in the area for 50 years, purchased the 25 acres last May at auction and said this would be his first development. Bates said he and his wife had done much research on development and had visited subdivisions in North Carolina, Atlanta and Nashville to help with the process.
“We think we’re going to do something with the property that’s not going on in Kingsport. We’re proud of what we’re trying to accomplish. We take pride in what we do, and you’ll not be ashamed of what Chase Meadows will look like,” Bates said.
Anita Bates said she and her husband had contacted professionals in the development field to educate them on the process.
“We’re not going to do anything but enhance the area of Fall Creek,” she said.
However, these comments did not change the opinion of Vance Ramsey.
“My impression I get is by looking at what they’ve done — someone who doesn’t live in the community, comes from the outside, buys some property and immediately requests annexation without any regard at all to the community,” Ramsey said. “An outsider is coming in and forcing something on us that we don’t want.”
Following public comment, Mayor Dennis Phillips again reminded people the city would notify the residents of Fall Creek as soon as a development plan for Chase Meadows is submitted.
“This property can be subdivided and modulars put all over it. If you don’t believe that, that’s fine, but it’s a fact. We’re not going to stop growth,” Phillips said. “We have promised you, everyone, we will call you the day we get the plan of what will be built there. Nothing will be built until it comes before the Planning Commission.
“We want your input, and we want to complement the community.”
Alderwoman Valerie Joh said the property would have better oversight if it were in the city.
“A city that doesn’t grow, dies. We all know we need places for people to live and developments that are handled carefully,” she said.
The BMA voted 5-1 to approve the annexation, with Alderman Pat Shull making a protest vote against the proposal. Shull said he did so since the city has failed to revisit its annexation plan — a move Shull has mentioned several times in the recent past.
“We do have a good plan, but this board needs to direct our staff to take a 360-degree look at our growth boundary and develop a plan,” Shull said.