Walgreens plan delayed again

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   The Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission deferred final site plan approval Tuesday night for one of the longest-running development proposals in recent memory.
   Johnson City developer Ed Street initially presented a plan to build a Walgreens on property along Broad Street in January. After approving the rezoning of residential property on East C Street and closure of an alley off Lynn Avenue, planning commissioners gave the project subdivision plat approval and preliminary site plan approval in February.
   The preliminary 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 entrance provides one entrance lane and one exit lane to a property site while prohibiting motorists from making left turns across multiple lanes of traffic.
   Street approached the commission at its March meeting requesting the site plan be amended to provide a full-access egress from the property onto Broad Street. The egress allows motorists leaving the property to turn right onto the northbound lanes of Broad Street or turn left across three traffic lanes to travel southbound on Broad Street.
   City Director of Planning and Development, David Ornduff, pointed to a traffic impact study done by Mattern & Craig engineering firm describing traffic movement and safety problems created with permitting motorists to turn across multiple lanes of traffic. The Tennessee Department of Transportation report on average daily traffic found more than 30,000 vehicles traveling on Broad Street.
   "At the time it was approved, we did not have the (traffic study) information," Ornduff said after the meeting. "I felt duty-bound to bring this up to the commission."
   Planning commissioners voted 6-1 in March with Commissioner Sam Shipley voting no to approve the request for a full access egress on Broad Street. Shipley, at the time, 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 had indicated the existing Napa Auto Parts store had full-access entrance to Broad Street, which commissioners noted Tuesday night was incorrect. Street did not attend Tuesday's meeting.
   Ornduff said city staff remained opposed to a full access point on Broad Street and urged the commission approve the amended plan permitting right-turn access only. However, a handful of commissioners wanted to hear from Street about the traffic study and the full-access issue.
   "We ought to give him the opportunity to (talk)," said Haynes Elliott, commission chairman.
   The commission opted to defer the site plan decision Tuesday night and convene at a called meeting at a later date to hear from Street.
   The commission voted 7-0 approving an agreement with the Jemsite Development company of Jefferson, N.C., which is building the Lowe's superstore, to release insurance money paid to the city based on infrastructure projects completed during the next few months.
    Jemsite representatives provided the city with a letter of credit in the amount of $650,000 as an insurance policy for developers to construct public service infrastructure such as water and sewer lines, storm drains to service the property, as well as paving costs.
   Under the agreement, city officials would inspect work completed by Jemsite and attach a dollar amount to work relating to infrastructure projects. The dollar amount would be subtracted from the $650,000 letter of credit freeing up cash flow for the company. The agreement sets a minimum balance of $300,000 to remain in the bank until the project reaches completion.
   In other business, the commission voted 7-0 granting final plat approval for property located on Daniel Lane and Aspen Drive. Submitted by Arthur and Sarah Miller, the site plan expands five existing lots into two larger lots.