Access road plan takes U-turn at Planning Commission meeting

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com
Fulfilling a proposed access road system to link the planned Wal-Mart Supercenter and existing Wal-Mart store may be contingent on an adjacent property owner who claims ownership in a portion of land where the road would be located.
Charles Von Cannon, owner of the Bemberg Industrial Center, cautioned Planning Commission members at a meeting Tuesday night about the development of an access road given his ownership of a strip of property near the Lowe's development
"I hope that Lowe's, the city and everybody else around has checked the deeds," Von Cannon told commissioners. "That's the same problems I've had for 10 years, and I don't intend to give up."
The issue was raised when the agenda item came up for planners to consider giving approval for a preliminary subdivision plat to the much-anticipated Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse. As part of the Lowe's site, developers plan to create an access road system to divert traffic from Wallace Avenue behind the U.S. Post Office on West Elk Avenue to Tony Fuller Drive on the west end of the existing Wal-Mart store.
Von Cannon said a strip of property 50-feet wide and 409-feet long extended between the proposed Wal-Mart and the existing store. He said any access road between the proposed Lowe's and the U.S. Post Office property would be difficult without acquiring property from the Post Office. Von Cannon said the property in question had been surveyed numerous times to establish where his property was located in respect to the existing Wal-Mart and Tony Fuller Drive.
"There are more metal stakes over there than East Tennessee Scrap Metal has in its yard," he said.
Attorney Lon Boyd of Kingsport sent letters to Elizabethton city administration and Lowe's in January advising them of Von Cannon's concerns.
City Director of Planning and Development, David Ornduff, said the city was willing to discuss the issue with Von Cannon at his convenience.
"It has been known about for 10 years that the problem is there," Von Cannon said. "I'm tired of playing games." Referring to a scale drawing displayed on overhead projection, Von Cannon also indicated the Lowe's building encroached on a portion of his property.
Stan Harrison with the state's Planning Office recommended against final plat approval for the Lowe's development until Von Cannon's issue is resolved since the access road's status as a city street would become an issue.
"The (road) dedication issue will come up on the final plat approval," he told commission members.
However, Randall Shelby with the Tysinger, Hampton and Partners survey firm told commission members he was "100 percent sure" the Lowe's building did not encroach on any property owner outside the specified tract.
Commissioner Jack Cole also recommended the commission delay final approval, but Commissioner Victor Deloach stated the subdivision and site plan issue were independent of the access road issue. The A subdivision plat and site plan submitted by Site, Inc. of Knoxville, positions Lowe's on a 16-acre tract of land between the existing Wal-Mart store and the future Wal-Mart Supercenter. Planners ultimately voted 7-0 to grant preliminary subdivision plat approval for the Lowe's development and site plan approval for the store contingent on final subdivision plat approval.
A round of impromptu negotiations between a Johnson City developer also avoided a potential delay in the development of a proposed Walgreens drug store on Broad Street.
Tom Peters of Kingsport appeared on behalf of Harry Ornduff of East C Street to discuss a proposal from developer Ed Street regarding the Walgreens.
The commission voted in January to rezone property located at 213 East C St. from R-1 residential to B-1 business and rezone a portion of the alley between Broad Street and East C Street. Commissioners also voted 6-0 to approve Street's request to close an alley lying between Broad Street and East C Street from Lynn Avenue to the Elizabethton Church of Christ.
When initially approaching the commission Tuesday night, Street presented three additional requests as part of the development. Speaking on behalf of Ornduff, Peters said a portion of land two feet by two feet six inches was in question. Peters said a survey of the property indicated the strip being offered to his client by Street was already owned by Harry Ornduff.
Street said his own surveyors told him otherwise. He also cited time-sensitive options to purchase various tracts of property in the vicinity of Lynn Avenue and Broad Street as barriers to a drawn out negotiation. Then, he, Peters and Harry Ornduff left the commission chambers and returned approximately 10 minutes later with the issue resolved.
Under their verbal negotiation presented to the commission by the parties, the two feet property strip would be given to Harry Ornduff via quit-claim deed; a utility easement would be established between the drug store and Ornduff's property, and a utility easement for use by the city would extend down the alley.
Harrison also cautioned the commission to approve the preliminary subdivision plat approval and site plan approval contingent on Street ultimately acquiring the parcels of land he had not yet purchased. The commission voted 7-0 to both plat and site plan items based on Harrison's recommendation.
After the meeting, Street declined to comment on which property parcels were on option. The Napa Auto Parts business, a lot owned by Happy Valley Credit Union, and at least two residential properties on East C Street are among the properties ultimately involved in the Walgreens development.
In other business, the commission voted 7-0 to rezone property at 208 Parkway Blvd. from R-2 residential to B-2 arterial business. The rezoning request came from Phillip and Rebecca Gilmer who plan to relocate their dentist office to the location. City Council accepted a bid of $265,000 in January from the Gilmers to purchase the property from the city.