City takes on Walgreens rezoning tonight

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   The Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission will hear a rezoning request tonight that could radically change the use of land on two blocks between Broad Street and East Elk Avenue. Johnson City contractor Ed Street wants to build a Walgreens drug store on a residentially zoned piece of land on the corner of Broad Street and Lynn Avenue.
   The city's Planning and Development department received the request last month. If approved, the Walgreens development would require that Napa Auto Parts relocate. It would also create more commercial development closer to the residential section of East C Street.
   According to planning officials, Napa Auto Parts would move across Broad Street adjacent to Hardees' restaurant.
   Street also will ask commissioners to close the alley between Broad Street and East C Street from Lynn Avenue to the Elizabethton Church of Christ. The rezoning would affect residential property owned by Sid Smithdeal.
   Smithdeal is one of several East C Street residents who were opposed to Happy Valley Credit Union's residential-to-business rezoning request made about 15 months ago. Credit Union representatives sought to rezone property at 215 East C St. from residential to business for parking space and to relocate its automated teller machine.
   After voting down the proposal in October 2002, the commission voted 4-3 to rezone the property from residential to business for the Credit Union in May. State planning officials advised the commission rezone six properties on East C Street to accommodate future commercial growth.
   Street's proposal comes almost one year after Walgreens sought to build a store on West Elk Avenue on the former North American Rayon Corp. property. A Knoxville firm submitted a site plan to build a 14,800 square-foot Walgreens drug store on 2.1-acres of NARC property in January 2003. A Planning Commission decision not to allow a proposed curb cut on West Elk Avenue for customers to enter and exit the property, blocked the store's development.
   A long-time commercial strip in town, Broad Street businesses are branching more into surrounding residential streets. Planners voted in May to rezone from residential to commercial some land behind Citizens Bank's Broad Street location.
   Founded in 1901, Walgreens operates more than 4,200 drug stores nationwide, including 159 in Tennessee. The publicly traded company opened two drugs stores in Johnson City on University Parkway and North Roan Street in the past 18 months. Elizabethton has welcomed two CVS pharmacies and one Rite-Aid in recent years.
   The company's sales reached $32 billion and earnings exceeded $1.1 billion for the 2003 fiscal year that ended Aug. 31. The company also opened 430 new stores and plans to open an additional 450 in 2004, according to the company's Web site.