Budget cuts could defer TWRA land interest

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
 twilson@starhq.com

   A state agency could be interested in the development of property -- including a textile company's former water processing plant -- in the city of Elizabethton's Cherokee Industrial Park.
   While the property's purchase and subsequent development could be a significant shot in the arm for the local economy, the crushing state budget could delay any movement on the property by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA).
   "I haven't heard any movement of funds available for it," said John Gregory with TWRA in Nashville.
   The Elizabethton City Council approved a resolution earlier this month permitting the Rainbow Realty firm to show an approximately 5-acre tract of property in the Cherokee Industrial Park. The real estate firm indicated in their request that the property would be shown to TWRA.
   City Director of Planning and Development David Ornduff said preliminary indications were the former North American Rayon Corp. water processing plant was included in the property. The property could include another portion of a lot located at the end of the cul-de-sac of Navajo Drive.
   Gregory said he had a brief conversation about developing property in Northeast Tennessee but no formal discussions on buying the land had been initiated. The agency faces a 9 percent reduction in its budget.
   Developing the site also could mean utility movement with underground water, sewer and utility lines located on the property.
   "If they do develop that, they are going to have to come and talk to us because of some issues pertaining to that site," said Ornduff.
   Those issues include a pumping station, a sewer line and a water line that connects from Watauga River into the water treatment plant. Gregory expected the agency to hold workshops for the 2003-2004 budget when possible capital projects are expected to come up. "We'll know better where we stand and that's also when we put some budgets together for the next year," he said.
   The Watauga River has become a hotspot for anglers across the region. The agency's board of commissioners this week reversed a decision on the quality trout stream of the Watauga River after local residents complained the designation prohibited traditional fishing with live bait.