NETWORKS passes on house purchase

Rick Wagner • Oct 12, 2017 at 1:15 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County’s economic development partnership has decided against buying a residential property adjacent to Partnership Park II in Bristol, at least for the time being.

However, the NETWORKS — Sullivan Partnership board voted to empower CEO Clay Walker to negotiate a $12,000-plus natural gas line easement proposal from Atmos Energy at the park, with the caveat that the line and its easement and right-of-way do not interfere with the planned transloading facility to be built at the park.

The board also got a quick update on the annual Northeast Tennessee Red Carpet Tour throughout Sullivan County. That event brought site consultants and Tennessee economic development officials to the area last month during the NASCAR races at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Walker told the board at its quarterly meeting Wednesday morning at Northeast State Community College that the owner of a less than one-acre parcel and house next to the park has offered to sell the property to NETWORKS for its county tax appraised price of about $83,000, which includes the home and the lot that otherwise would be worth about $11,700.

He said NETWORKS could buy the property and lease the house like it does other rental properties and that the lot purchase would move “toward squaring that (park boundary) up.” However, upon questioning by Bristol Councilwoman Leah Powers and others, he said there is no strategic plan in place to expand the park and that money might be better spent improving the existing park land.

“I don’t have strong feelings toward it,” Walker said, adding in response to Bluff City Mayor Irene Wells that the NETWORKS staff also doesn’t have fears about somebody else buying the land since it is residential property adjacent to an industrial park, albeit on the other side of railroad tracks.

Powers asked about buying up enough land to link PPII with the Bristol Industrial Park, and NETWORKS officials responded that would require the purchase of 17 parcels with 16 different owners. The land all told appraises at $3.1 million or about $34,000 an acre.

“That’s (improving PPII) a better investment,” Bristol City Manager Bill Sorah said. “We’ve got topographic challenges at Partnership Park II that have hindered its development.”

Walker said the board could reconsider a purchase if the asking price falls.

The residential parcel is not far from the proposed transloading facility, which Walker after the meeting described as a place for local industries to load and unload railroad freight. Walker and others are going to Somerset, Ky., soon to view a similar project. NETWORKS also has preapproval for a $350,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant, which would require a local match, for site preparations for the transloading facility and is seeking a $1 million Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development grant.

Atmos has proposed paying almost $12,200 for the permanent easement and a temporary easement for construction of the pipeline.

“We can’t jeopardize any possible rail user with this,” Walker said.

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