Editorial: Kingsport should green-light Memorial rezoning

Editorial Board • Aug 14, 2018 at 10:30 PM

The Kingsport Regional Planning Commission does an exceptional job in balancing varied interests as the community evolves. But we disagree with its recent 4-3 vote to deny rezoning a five-acre site at the corner of Eastman Road and Fort Henry Drive.

No doubt, neighbors whose properties will border a proposed redevelopment there don’t want it, but that’s true of any new development, and if that, alone, dictated votes by the commission, the city would stagnate.

Eric Kennedy, owner of Gold Rush, owns or has agreements to purchase all of the property in the area he asks to be included in the rezoning. That includes four homes on Hemlock Lane, seven homes on Memorial Court and commercial property fronting Fort Henry, including the former Joe Gong restaurant.

Kennedy says he’s been approached by multiple people over time, and his plans for the site may include a pharmacy and restaurant or a strip center. “We have a general idea but nothing has been hammered down yet,” Kennedy said. Nor is there a definite timeline on the development.

A conceptual plan shows all of these buildings demolished and in their place a new development, one with a pharmacy at the corner of the intersection and a restaurant (with a doublelane drive-thru) next door.

Kennedy said, “Of the four corners (at this intersection) this is the one that probably needs the most work. This is in the heart of the city. It would create jobs and revenue, and it’ll have a better appearance for people driving through.”

A business owner in the development area said Kennedy’s plans are “the highest and best use to change this property. I see a lot of tax revenue for the city and it’s going to look better.” Kennedy’s brother Eric agrees: “Overall, this is a great opportunity for the area. These properties are needed to make the entire development happen. It’ll bring good value to that corner and to Kingsport.”

There has not been much development in this area of late, and this project could jump-start others, as well as bring in more traffic to the general area, which includes the Fort Henry Mall.

The Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen will likely discuss the matter at its Aug. 20 work session, then consider the rezoning the following evening at its regular meeting. We encourage the BMA to overrule the commission and give the project a green light.

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