It’s been about a decade since Mount Carmel launched an effort to beautify the downtown area in hopes of attracting more businesses with more foot traffic.
Among the steps taken was requiring all newly constructed businesses to include and maintain a certain amount of trees or shrubbery based on the size of the parking lot.
Building Inspector Vince Pishner told the BMA Tuesday evening that a developer looking at downtown Mount Carmel as a potential location for a major retail project asked that the landscaping requirement be waived.
“They said it was an obstacle,” Pishner told the board.
Mount Carmel’s parking lot landscaping ordinance is only slightly less stringent than Kingsport’s. Pishner noted, however, that Church Hill has no landscaping requirements for new commercial construction.
The retailer told Pishner the landscaping requirement was a deal breaker. As a result, the Planning Commission recommended that the landscaping requirement be eliminated.
Tuesday evening the BMA approved that recommendation unanimously.
As is typical in such pending business development projects, the name of the retailer wasn’t disclosed.
Mayor Chris Jones told the Times-News Wednesday that if the development comes to fruition, it would be at least a year before ground is broken.
Jones said the Planning Commission has been looking into ways of attracting new business as well as comparing how Mount Carmel’s requirements and restrictions compare to its neighbors’.
“This administration is open to working with and assisting new businesses,” Jones said. “We will do everything we can to make Mount Carmel the most business-friendly community in the region. We know that developers look at these regulations and requirements in advance, as well as how strict ours are compared to our neighbors. We’re trying to make it easier for a business to come in and develop an area, and more economical for them, and we know the more parking space they have, the more customers they’re going to have.”
Jones noted that he has been contacted more than once by multiple developers, and he has joined some as they toured available property on Main Street.
The goal is to balance the economic benefits with beautification.
“The way these landscaping requirements are set up, not only do they have to do it. After they do it, then they’ve got the expense to maintain it,” Jones said. “Sometimes they get maintained, and sometimes they don’t.”
Jones added, “I have met with the developers and we’ve looked at some properties. Among their concerns are they would rather have the parking places versus having the shrubbery and trees, which also adds maintenance costs. This is a way to help encourage those developers to continue looking at us and hopefully decide to locate in our area.”