KINGSPORT — City Manager John Campbell said he regrets that a few Sullivan County commissioners evidently want to return to a day when the county and cities were adversaries.
Campbell’s comment came in response to a special called meeting county commissioners plan to hold Feb. 28 to consider court action to fight Kingsport’s recent annexation of the Chase Meadows property in the Fall Creek area.
Earlier this month, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted on final reading to annex the 25-acre site off Fall Creek Road. The owners plan to develop the property into a 102-house subdivision called Chase Meadows.
Several Fall Creek residents voiced concerns over the annexation, 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 Warriors Path State Park.
Now, the County Commission appears to be weighing in on the annexation and could file suit by March 6 to prevent the property from coming into the city.
Campbell said he does not take things like a potential lawsuit personally, but a lawsuit would be counterproductive for the city and county to move forward on other issues.
“I do think it is important to remember that a return to past county-city animosity means a return to lawsuits. And lawsuits don’t create jobs. They kill them,” Campbell said. “A stagnant economy is what Sullivan County faced in years past, when county-initiated lawsuits against Kingsport and Bristol ruled the day.”
Campbell said he was of the belief the city and county had long ago realized that by working together, they do the most good for all county residents.
“Sullivan County need look no further than the low unemployment rates, robust retail development and record private investment to see the results of city-county cooperation during the last 18 years,” Campbell said. “Beyond the numbers, the results of cooperation are visible to anyone who drives from one end of the county to the other.”
Campbell said in the Chase Meadows situation, the city has a property owner who legally requested annexation of his own property in order to build a high-quality residential development with access to city amenities and services.
“When you don’t produce better neighborhoods or housing stock in greater numbers, what happens is a lot of people choose to live in surrounding counties. Unfortunately that’s what’s happened over the past five or six years,” Campbell said. “If you start treating developers like this in Sullivan County, what kind of reaction do you expect to get?”
Mayor Dennis Phillips said he was not surprised to hear of the commission’s decision.
“I don’t want to get into a disagreement and argument with the county, but the very reason for the urban growth boundary being established was to prevent lawsuits like this from happening,” Phillips said. “Based on what I’ve been told, the urban growth boundary prevents the county from suing the city for annexing property within the boundary.
“I don’t understand how they would have standing for filing suit for a developer-requested annexation that does not involve any other property other than the road.”