KINGSPORT — The Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to retain an Atlanta-based architectural firm to design a $12.5 million expansion at the MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center and approved the annexation of 350 people in the Rock Springs community Tuesday night.
The BMA voted 5-2 to approve an $819,000 contract with Chapman, Griffin, Lanier, Sussenbach Architects to design a new 32,000-square-foot executive conference wing at MeadowView. Aldermen Pat Shull and Ken Marsh voted against the measure.
Kingsport leaders have been considering an expansion to the convention side of the center ever since Eastman Chemical Co. announced in January it was planning a $15 million renovation and expansion project to the center’s Marriott Hotel. This project calls for adding two 55-room towers to the facility and renovating all of the other rooms.
MeadowView officials say the executive conference wing will cater to high-end meetings, retreats and conferences and will be built at the rear of the facility. The two-story building would include two amphitheaters (a 60-seat and 150-seat, both U-shaped), two boardrooms (seating 30 people each), a conference room, and a 5,000-square foot ballroom. Total cost of the project — the new wing, changes to the restaurant and parking — is estimated to cost $13.9 million.
According to an economic impact study, beginning in 2011 (the year after stabilized occupancy) the new wing is projected to generate an additional $750,000 to $950,000 a year and result in the elimination of the center’s yearly subsidy from the city, which has ranged from $300,000 to $800,000 over the years.
City officials are proposing to pay for the executive conference wing out of the regional sales tax — the quarter cent added to the sales tax rate in 1992 to pay for the construction of the original center.
Marsh, who called into the meeting, asked what the gigantic hurry was in approving the architectural contract.
“It came as a big surprise to me, and I’m stunned we’re trying to make this official and spend a big wad of money on this so quickly,” Marsh said, making a motion to defer the matter until the second BMA meeting in October. “(The economic analysis) deserves a careful analysis, and we should not make a decision in 24 hours. What’s in it for the citizens of Kingsport?”
His motion to defer failed by a vote of 2-5. Shull voted to defer.
City Manager John Campbell said one of the reasons to move forward with hiring architects is because MeadowView officials wanted the two expansion projects to move forward as close together as possible.
“So the building won’t be under construction for two or three years in a row,” he said.
Alderman Larry Munsey said the benefit to the citizens of Kingsport would be the project is part of economic development.
“Drawing more activity to the city of Kingsport, which results in additional sales tax, which does help the citizens of Kingsport by keeping property taxes low,” Munsey said. “(Marsh) asks why hurry? I say why delay? This is not new information. We’ve heard this for months.”
Vice Mayor Ben Mallicote took issue with Marsh’s statement that the economic analysis was not well considered by the BMA during its work session Monday afternoon.
“It galls me that someone who was not at the meeting, commenting on whether we considered it sufficiently. That’s totally without basis,” Mallicote said. “I don’t know what we could do to get more reliable numbers.”
Shull said the BMA did not have substantive discussions on the analysis, an analysis he said was “pretty thin.”
“It looks pretty speculative and risky to me. We do need more public input on this decision,” Shull said.
The BMA also voted unanimously to approve the annexation of the remaining property in Areas 6 and 7 in Rock Springs. The two areas will go before the BMA on Oct. 7 for second and final reading and officially come into the city 30 days after.
Area 8, which was supposed to come before the BMA on Tuesday, was delayed due to a printing error at the Times-News. Area 8, which has now been split into three roughly even parts, will go before the BMA on Oct. 7.
Some residents in the annexation areas filed lawsuits to prevent the city from annexing their property. The lawsuits have since been merged and are expected to go to trial in January. Due to the lawsuits, the city allowed residents in Areas 6, 7 and 8 to request annexation if they so choose in order to not be tied up in a potential lawsuit.
Kingsport has already annexed those property owners, and these latest annexations are targeting the remaining property in the areas.
Areas 6, 7 and 8 include approximately 526 acres, 493 residents and nearly 30,000 linear feet of roadway. The cost to provide water upgrades and sewer lines to the areas is estimated to be $1.6 million and $4.8 million, respectively. The estimated annual revenue from these areas is $432,705.
Once Area 8 is approved, it will mark the completion of the original 10 areas — about 1,000 acres — in the Rock Springs community targeted for annexation more than two years ago. City staff are now considering switching the 2008 annexation areas with the 2010 annexation areas due to a number of failing septic tank systems in the Hidden Acres subdivision, which city officials say needs to be addressed with sanitary sewer.
In other business Tuesday:
•The BMA voted to rezone 75 parcels in the downtown district from M-1 (light industrial) and M-2 (general industrial) to B-2 (central business district). Marsh and Shull voted against the measure.
•The BMA approved the annexation of a single residence in the Warrior Falls subdivision. The house will officially become a part of the city in 30 days.
•The city accepted a $30,000 Tennessee “Roadscapes” grant, which will be used to landscape Fort Henry Drive at John B. Dennis, Netherland Inn Road at Stone Drive and Memorial Boulevard at John B. Dennis. Kingsport plans to apply for an additional $40,000 in landscaping funds to beautify the Wilcox Drive corridor, Lynn Garden at Interstate 26 and John B. Dennis at Stone Drive.