Planners approve fee increase for zoning requests

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   The Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission voted 7-0 to approve a recommendation for increases in fees charged for requests submitted to the city planning department.
   "We have not made changes in our fee schedule since 1981," David Ornduff, director of Planning and Development, told commissioners at Tuesday's Commission meeting. "We do not take it lightly to raise the fee requirements."
   Under the revised fee schedule, rezoning requests would rise from $25 to $50 for residential and $75 for commercial requests. Fees for property variances would rise from $15 to $50 for residential and $75 for commercial requests.
   Site plan fees would increase from $15 to $50 for residential site plans and $75 for commercial site plans while subdivision plat fees rise from $15 to $25.
   Ornduff presented the zoning fee schedules for surrounding cities that were primarily higher than or equal to the proposed fee schedule. In Bristol, Tenn., variances were $25 while fees for subdivision plats were $20 and $100 for all rezoning.
   Fees in surrounding cities included, Kingsport: variances, $50; subdivision plats, $25; and $150 for all rezoning; and Johnson City: rezoning residential, $200; rezoning commercial, $450; variance $135; subdivision, $145.
   "There is a lot of work that goes into a preliminary plat approval," Ornduff said. He added that the fee increase was being recommended to defray expenses compiled by the planning staff to do field inspections and building inspections of zoning requests submitted to the planning department.
   The commission voted 7-0 to approve the preliminary site plan for a police radio antenna located behind Fire Station 3 off Buck Van Huss Drive. The site plan was presented by Elizabethton Police Sgt. Danny Hilbert who said the plan was designed to improve radio communications with police officers in the Milligan and Pinecrest areas.
   "We are trying to upgrade our communications system," said Hilbert. "Once you get down into the Pinecrest area and officers get out on foot, they have no portable communication. It's a safety issue."
   Hilbert said police had conducted a test that successfully demonstrated the antenna's effectiveness at the Fire Station 3.
   The commission also voted 7-0 to approve a site plan submitted by George Gwinn Jr. to develop property at 406-426 Railroad Street. Gwinn said he planned to develop the property into office and service-based business.
   The city Board of Zoning Appeals -- comprised of the Planning Commission members -- also approved a variance request for Gwinn to allow a 17-feet, six-inch variance for the rear yard setback of the Railroad Street property.