City planners revise Walgreens site plan

By Thomas Wilson

   The Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission voted to amend the preliminary site plan submitted to develop a Walgreens drug store on Broad Street but stopped short of granting a new access point on Lynn Avenue to the property.
   Ed Street who is developing the project for Walgreens requested the commission revise the preliminary site plan to allow full access on Broad Street and Lynn Avenue. The "full access" request sought to provide three entrance lanes for outgoing and incoming motorists to the property.
   "Walgreens has delayed the final decision on this deal," Street told the commission.
   Planning commissioners gave the project subdivision plat approval and preliminary site plan approval in February. The site plan allowed for a right-turn-only egress on Broad Street and Lynn Avenue and full access on East C Street. A right-turn-only egress gives two lanes to enter and exit a property. Final site plan approval is contingent on Street securing all properties involved in the development.
   City Director of Planning and Development, David Ornduff, said city staff opposed full access on Lynn Avenue given the limited space of that city block and the proximity of Citizens Bank. He also cited a letter from Police Chief Roger Deal expressing his concerns about potential traffic and public safety problems if full access is granted for the Lynn Avenue egress.
   "It is a difficult situation to best for full access here," said Ornduff, who added a future project to widen South Lynn Avenue would heighten traffic along the road and increase congestion if full access on that roadway is granted. "Other than the fact that Walgreens wants it, there is no justification."
   Commissioner Nancy Alsup questioned why full access could not be granted given the higher amounts of traffic near Walgreens on University Parkway in Johnson City compared to Lynn Avenue. Ornduff said that, while traffic amounts are higher, that Walgreens development did not have "full access" on University Parkway or access from South Roan Street.
   Planners voted 6-1 with Commissioner Sam Shipley voting no to grant full access egress on Broad Street. Commissioner Jack Cole and Shipley noted serious safety concerns about allowing motorists to cut across five lanes of traffic on Broad Street to enter or leave the Walgreens property.
   Street said he would present the commission's amendment to Walgreens officials later this week. "If that is the best we can do ... I will go back to them with that," Street said.
   The commission meeting also included a public hearing Tuesday night seeking public input regarding the city's proposed submission of a Community Development Block Grant to fund relocation of the Doe River water transmission line from the Hampton spring source.
   Preliminary cost estimates to relocate the water line via "trench-cut" through the Doe River would cost the city approximately $350,000, according to an engineering firm. Ken Ray of the First Tennessee Development District said the CDBG grant was administered by the state through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and covered 83 percent -- roughly $290,000 -- of the project's estimated cost.
   Encased in a concrete shell, the line extends 240 feet across a decaying bridge over the Doe River on the abandoned U.S. Highway 19-E. The city had received preliminary approval for the grant from the governor's office based on the "imminent threat" status of the water line.
   Under the grant, the city would bid out the project and initially fund the construction of transmission after a construction firm is hired and applicable permitting approved. The state then reimburses the city's costs as they are submitted to the state. Ornduff advised the commission that environmental permits required to enter the river are underway.
   The water line supplies water to roughly 30 percent of the city's water customers. J.R. Wauford engineers initially evaluated the bridge June of 2002 and found a 46-foot portion of the bridge's western wall and a bridge deck had fallen into the river. The county flood in January of 1998 destroyed a 14-inch water transmission line to the city's Hampton Spring source. The city constructed the existing water line to restore water service to city customers shortly after the flood.
   After the Planning Commission meeting adjourned, commission members acting in their capacity as the Elizabethton Board of Zoning Appeals also voted 7-0 to grant a variance of 15 feet to Greeneville Oil for the Citgo Market near the West G Street and West Elk Avenue intersection.
   The canopy will extend over a presently closed public road. Denny Mathes representing Greeneville Oil said the company purchased the store in August. The company has a franchise agreement with Citgo to improve the store's facade and gas pump operations.
   "If we could get the variance we could clean up the site quite a bit," Mathes said.
   BZA members approved the variance with the stipulation that if the public road is ever reopened, the company must remove the canopy.