KINGSPORT — The annexation of a controversial development in the Fall Creek community received final approval by the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen Tuesday night, with some area residents giving one last appeal to city leaders to deny the annexation request.
Kenneth and Anita Bates of Rock Springs plan to develop a 25-acre parcel off Fall Creek Road into a 102-home subdivision called Chase Meadows. The couple requested annexation, and initially city planners chose to annex 255 acres of Warriors Path State Park to reach the development.
However, after receiving numerous complaints and concerns from Fall Creek residents about the route, the city chose to annex the road through the park to reach the development.
Some Fall Creek residents have attended every BMA work session and regular meeting where the annexation was on the agenda, and they have met with elected leaders and city officials about the development. These residents have a number of concerns — from the density of the development, to the types of homes proposed to be built, to the effect the additional traffic would have on Fall Creek Road and the park.
The BMA voted 6-1 to approve the annexation during its regular meeting Tuesday night. Alderman Pat Shull again made a protest vote against the annexation, saying the city needs to have an annexation plan for its entire urban growth boundary. Shull also said there was no compelling reason to annex Chase Meadows at this time.
Several Sullivan County commissioners attended Tuesday’s BMA meeting in support of the Fall Creek residents, including Moe Brotherton, Sam Jones and Mike Surgenor. Commissioner Bill Kilgore was also present, but said he neither supports nor opposes the Chase Meadows annexation and attended the meeting only to obtain information.
During the BMA work session Monday afternoon and regular meeting Tuesday night, Mayor Dennis Phillips suspended the normal rules and allowed public comments on the annexation at the beginning of each meeting.
Phillips said he had been extremely lenient and wanted to be as fair as possible.
Judy Godat, who has spoken at several meetings, said under the urban growth plan Kingsport is annexing Chase Meadows in accordance with Sullivan County’s land use plan.
“The development shall be consistent with the adopted land use plan. ... If you do planned development, it would be outside the legal requirements of the (urban growth plan),” Godat said.
City Attorney Mike Billingsley told the BMA the land use plan is not mandatory or legally binding.
Bob Penn, who lives in the neighboring Warrior Falls subdivision, said he was concerned about Chase Meadows’ impact on the park.
“It seems there needs to be more discussion, to get more public discussion and what’s going to be the impact?” Penn said.
Rod Lockhart, who lives on Fall Creek Road, moved to Sullivan County six months ago from Knoxville.
“I never thought I’d be spending that much time looking at annexation laws,” Lockhart said. “Your plans for annexing places like Chase Meadows, Old Island. ... You go down a county road, you don’t take any land, you get a developer, and all of a sudden there’s no aggrieved parties who could bring suit. I think you should be ashamed.”
Kenneth Bates, the owner and developer of the property, assured those in attendance he and his wife would put pride and quality in the development.
“You don’t have to worry about the value of your homes by what we do,” Bates said.
Bates has lived in Kingsport for over 50 years. Chase Meadows marks his first housing development.
Alderman Ken Marsh said anyone who moves in the Fall Creek area impacts the Fall Creek area.
“As many as 1,500 residents are accessible to Fall Creek Road, and every one impacts the road. Change is inevitable,” Marsh said. “Changes to Fall Creek have been significant, and basically it’s an urban area now.”
Shull voted against the annexation on both readings, saying the city does not have an overall annexation plan for the city’s entire urban growth boundary. This has been an issue Shull has raised several times in the recent past.
“I think it’s time for the city to take another look at the plan. I’d like to see a 360-degree plan that looks at the entire urban growth boundary,” Shull said. “It would allow us to consider things like urban sprawl and road networks. Just because someone requests annexation doesn’t mean we have to agree with it.
“There is no compelling reason to do this annexation at this time.”
City leaders estimate the Chase Meadows development would bring in $178,000 a year in taxes to Sullivan County.
“That’s for the county, not the city,” Phillips said.
The Bateses have agreed to meet and share their development plan with Fall Creek residents as soon as it’s available. A detailed plan has yet to be crafted since it was based upon whether the development would be in the city or not.
Phillips warned, however, the public meeting to view the development plan would not be a public hanging.
“Standing still is never an option. You either grow or you back up. All we’re doing in this case is trying to accommodate a developer, and if this is not planned, reasonable or affordable, I don’t know what is, Alderman Shull,” Phillips said. “I don’t think anyone’s going to be harmed by this annexation, and I don’t think any property values will decrease. Let’s give this developer a chance to show what he’s going to be building and allow some citizen input.
“A fear of the unknown is what I feel we have here.”