Property on Gap Creek rezoned

By Thomas Wilson
The Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission voted 6-0 on Tuesday night to rezone four parcels of property on Gap Creek Road from residential to business after months of debate.
Larry Price Jr. submitted a request six months ago asking the commission to rezone a .75-acre tract he owns near the Southside Road/Gap Creek Road intersection from R-1 residential to B-1 business to accommodate an auto garage business. Price spent the money to build the garage on the property before obtaining the appropriate land use designation from the city.
"We've been waiting since March," Larry Price, Sr. told the commission Tuesday night.
The .75-acre tract where the garage is located is part of four acres with three other tracts belonging to Larry Price Sr.'s mother, his sister and brother-in-law. Price Sr. said he saw no problem in zoning all four acres to B-1 given the family's ownership of the land.
Elizabethton Director of Planning and Development David Ornduff presented a zoning study of the Gap Creek Road area. He pointed out the Tennessee Department of Transportation had set aside funding for right-of-way property acquisition for the Gap Creek Road improvement project.
"City staff recommendation is not to do any rezoning until the road is constructed," Ornduff told the commission. However, he and Stan Harrison of the state's Regional Planning Office advised commissioners if they were dead set to approve the request, the entire four acres should be rezoned.
"I'd recommend you rezone the whole four-acre tract," said Harrison. "I think the whole neighborhood is in transition."
If the state follows through with dollars and construction, Gap Creek Road will become a three-lane highway. The highway will be reconfigured and move through several tracts of property along the existing road.
State and city planners had advised the commission against approving the request in the past citing the legal ramifications of "spot zoning".
Commissioners Nancy Alsup and Victor Deloach pressured the planning department for the Gap Creek Road zoning study to accommodate the rezoning request at the July meeting.
"(For) zoning to be effective, has to operate for the best interests of the city, not just what individual property owners are asking for," Harrison said.
The property in question lies across from the Big Springs Water Treatment plant on Gap Creek Road. While the adjoining property within the city limits is zoned residential, a portion of the four-acre property lies outside the city limits.
Just across the property "in the county's jurisdiction" a garage already operates.
Commissioners Alsup, Jack Cole, Deloach, Ken Markland, Sam Shipley, and Chairman Haynes Elliott voted to approve the request with Manual Bandarra absent. The commission's action is effectively contingent on the Carter County Planning Commission rezoning that property to accommodate standards.
The rezoning request now falls to the city council, which will likely hear the request at its meeting in October. Commission members sought to rush the council's consideration citing the wait the Prices had endured on the request. However, Ornduff said no occupancy permit would be granted until the council approved the recommendation.
Markland attended his first meeting after being appointed to replace Howard Matherly who retired earlier this year.