City negotiates with developer to build Walgreens

By Julie Fann
star staff

If there's any truth to the old Joni Mitchell song that goes, "Pave paradise; put up a parking lot," the city of Elizabethton may be getting further and further away from paradise. A Knoxville-based developing company and city officials could decide to build a Walgreens Drugstore at the old North American Corporation site. If they do, it's the parking lot that'll go.
   "Yeah, there'll be some demolition that'll have to occur and some environmental concerns," said Elizabethton Director of Planning and Development, Dave Ornduff. "But that's to be sorted out between the owner and the developer." Neither Charlie Green, who owns the property at North American Corporation, nor the Knoxville developing company, could be reached for comment.
   Ornduff said his office disagreed with the developer in building an entrance to the business on West Elk Avenue, close to the intersection of West Elk and Hudson Drive. As a result, negotiations are currently on hold. "Our concern is for the safety of the community, and building an entrance to a business at that intersection would be extremely unsafe," Ornduff said. He said the 14,560 square-foot building plan allows for an additional rear exit onto Hudson Drive that would be safe and accessible.
   According to the city's Major Thoroughfare plan, several changes will occur in the near future that would impact the new business. The city plans to install a new traffic signal at the intersection of Hudson and West Elk Avenue and also relocate the entrance of North American Corporation to Hudson Drive. In addition, a marginal access road will be built between Wal-Mart and the U.S. Post Office, parallel to West Elk.
   Ornduff said he told a representative from the developing company that the city is willing to build a temporary access road for Walgreens until the new marginal access road is built. Ornduff said the temporary entrance would be located further west, near Sycamore Shoals Hospital, to avoid conflict with the major intersection.
   "We want to do what's best for the community, and, to do so, it is important that we follow appropriate and reasonable city planning guidelines. Building another business entrance onto West Elk, removing more curb space, would not be good planning. If this developer is interested in building here, I'm sure he will contact us again," Ornduff said.
   Elizabethton City Manager, Charles Stahl, said he is supportive of any new business that wants to come to the city. "Obviously it's not really up to me or the city government to decide if an outside business wants to come here. In a free market society, I'm sure this business has done market research that tells them this city would accommodate them; it is not up to me. I'm supportive, though, of any business that wants to come to this city," he said.