Planning commission confirms 645 new city residents

By Julie Fann
Star Staff

The Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission on Tuesday released results from a recent census conducted of Carter County's west end, which extends along the Milligan Highway. Local volunteers performed the census over the past two months. The city now has 645 newly confirmed residents.
   With the addition of the new residents, the city's population has now reached 14,017. According to Michael Hughes, local planner, the city studied how adding new residents would affect public services such as water, sewer, fire and school numbers. "The state requires that we verify at least 10 percent of the annexed population (in the census), and we were able to verify 18 percent," he said.
   Hughes said an official certification of the population will be mailed to Nashville, and, dependent upon what officials there decide, the city could receive state-shared revenue. "I've heard that the city may receive approximately $100 per person, but it could be slightly less than that," Hughes said.
   Controversy has surrounded the annexation of Carter County's west end since 1997, when residents appealed the city's decision to annex their property. The appeal landed in U.S. District Court and was just defeated in December 2001.
   The newly annexed property does not include Sterling Hills Apartments, formerly The Overlook. In 1997, management at The Overlook, in an attempt to avoid annexation, tried to form a separate city under the now defunct Tiny Town law, which allowed areas with a population of 500 or more residents to incorporate.
   The commission on Tuesday also performed its first site approval as an "official" regional commission. Members voted to build a new subdivision located on Riverview Road in Valley Forge. The subdivision will also be the first site approved within the city's new Urban Growth Area, an effort made by the city to anticipate needs and expansion capabilities over the next 15-20 years.
   By extending its boundaries, the city can provide services to citizens as growth occurs, according to local officials. It will also allow the city to pool resources and cut down on costs.
   Public Chapter 1101 of the Tennessee Code provides flexibility so that local governments can tailor their growth plans to suit the unique character of the area. Urban Growth Boundaries include:
   --Territory that is reasonably compact yet sufficiently large to accommodate residential and nonresidential growth projected to occur over the next 20 years.
   --Territory that surrounds the existing boundaries of the city.
   --Territory that can be projected as a likely site of high density industrial or commercial use over the next 20 years.
   In other business, the planning commission also heard a complaint by a few local residents who are upset because they say the city hasn't followed proper procedure in approving the building of an addition to Grace Baptist Church. Residents who live near the property say the current building is set back 34 feet from the road and that it should be set back 35 feet. They say if the new addition is built next to it, then it will also be in violation of city ordinances.
   The commission agreed the property should be 35 feet in distance from the road and said they would send a city worker to measure the site again. They said that, if indeed the building does violate property boundary rules, then the church will need to apply for a variance so that the addition can be built.
   Construction is scheduled to begin today.