Mount Carmel rejects zoning changes for storage business, small industry

Jeff Bobo • Mar 2, 2019 at 7:00 PM

MOUNT CARMEL — Two controversial zoning change requests were rejected Thursday — one that would allow small industrial business to locate on Main Street and one that would open the door for a storage business near two subdivisions.

Industrial zone request on Main Street

Justin Stacy of Church Hill told the Board of Mayor and Aldermen he planned on purchasing the lot at 556 Main St. to locate his engineering design and fabrication business.

“My big customers are Eastman, some foundry work in Chattanooga, Knoxville, all across East Tennessee. On that property as well would go a business basically doing wholesale work for cabins in Gatlinburg. I do have some sales tax income, but it is very low. Almost everybody I deal with is tax-exempt because it’s going for manufacturing or design work.”

The zoning request was to change the property from mixed use business to industrial.

Stacy noted that the property, located on the far west end of town, is only 200 feet from the JTH building in Church Hill, which is also an industrial property.

Alderman Steven McLain, who made the motion to keep the zoning the same, noted that a similar request for that property was rejected by the BMA previously.

“Industrial is not going to look good on our Main Street,” McLain said.

Vice Mayor Jennifer Williams expressed concern that under the requested industrial zone the property wouldn’t generate sales tax.

There has been a push in recent years by city leaders to reserve vacant Main Street property for sales tax-generating businesses.

“Just the property tax would see an increase for the metal building they put up there,” Williams noted.

The BMA is scheduled to have a daylong retreat for long-term planning on March 21.

Mayor Chris Jones asked the board to postpone its vote on Stacy’s zoning request until after that retreat when the city’s five-year plan will be discussed.

“If we keep putting stuff off, we ain’t never gonna get nowhere,” said McLain.

Among those who voted to keep the zoning the same were McLain, Wanda Davidson, Jim Gilliam, and Jennifer Williams. Jones and Carl Wolfe voted no and Pat Stilwell abstained.

A storage business near subdivisions

Attorney Joe may spoke to the BMA on behalf of the owner of a lot off Hammond Avenue and just south of Hunters Run Lane who is seeking to rezone the property from multi-family residential to general business for the purpose of developing a 30-unit storage business.

The property consists of three lots totaling five acres and has been for sale for more than 15 years. May noted the only permitted use under the current zone would be for houses and duplexes. Building Inspector Vince Pishner said apartments and condos would be permitted upon special approval by the Planning Commission.

However, due to a spring on the property, the site wouldn’t be suitable for residential development without requiring expensive flood insurance, May said.

“These (storage) complexes are becoming more and more common in our area,” May told the BMA. “There’s one in Mount Carmel on Dover, there’s one in our neighboring city of Church Hill in front of the Indian Ridge subdivision, and there’s one in our neighboring city of Kingsport on Netherland Inn Road.”

The investment would about $250,000, which would be taxed at the 40 percent commercial rate, May noted.

The owner planned to plant buffer vegetation to screen the facility from the neighbors.

Several nearby residents spoke out against the rezoning, claiming that a storage business in that location would decrease their property values.

Alan Cloyd, who resides on Valley Crest Drive, said he moved to that neighborhood because it was residential and quiet.

“We don’t want storage buildings next to our subdivision or even making access to our subdivision,” Cloyd said. “We don’t like all that traffic. We’ve got enough traffic on our streets as it is, and it just ain’t fair to us to have something like that, and people coming in all hours of the night and bright lights.”

Don Carter, who resides on Hunters Run Lane, noted that the proposed storage business would be located on a dangerous curve of Hammond Avenue, and the increased traffic would be a safety concern.

Planning Commission Chairman Garrett White said the commission was unanimous in its vote not to recommend the change, which they agreed would have a negative impact on Hunters Run as well as nearby Hammond Estates. 

The board voted 7-0 to uphold the Planning Commission’s recommendation.

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