City approves traffic-calming devices

By Julie Fann

Elizabethton City Council members on Thursday approved the installation of traffic-calming devices on Mill Street, but not before citizens voiced their opinions about the project. During public hearing, two citizens voiced approval, while one warned the move might thwart business.
   "We built this highway to get traffic from out of the middle of town. Now we're going to slow it down. It's gonna hurt business. You're gonna put in speed bumps, and they're gonna go around 'em down by the river," said Mr. Austin, of 219 East Mill Street.
   However, one woman who also lives in the area said she is frequently concerned about the safety of children who play and the elderly who walk in the residential area while cars move quickly around them.
   "I worry someone is going to get run-over, the way traffic flies so fast down the street. I urge you to be pro-active about this," the woman said.
   Council members approved the installation of traffic-calming devices without opposition after hearing residents. Under the Neighborhood Traffic Management Program, speed bumps will be placed on Mill Street between Lynn Avenue and Cherokee Park Drive.
   In other business, attorney Stacy Street approached the council regarding a variance for a business to be located on Hudson Drive. Street said his client, Mr. Bass, wishes to let a company place a building on the property.
   However, because the requested curb cut is less than the 75 feet required by city ordinance, Mr. Bass was denied his request. Mr. Bass sought to appeal the decision, but was told by the city he can't appeal due to the way the ordinance is written. Bass had no choice but to seek legal counsel.
   "There is no way to appeal. No option but to file suit. Mr. Bass does not wish to do that. He does not wish to sue the City of Elizabethton," Street told the council. "I ask city council to look at this ordinance and look at the possibility of changing it ... so that decisions such as these have some avenue."
   Street also said a 75-foot curb cut would present a safety problem, and it would be best if the city approved a variance for a lesser cut.
   Mayor Sam LaPorte agreed with Street that city council needs to examine the wording of the ordinance to allow citizens to appeal. Council members said they will take action so that the request for the curb cut can be granted, and so future requests for a variance don't come up against a wall.
   City council members approved a resolution to transfer $214,000 in city funds to a municipal account in Nashville for restoration of the Elk Avenue Bridge.
   The city money was appropriated during the 2002-2003 budget cycle to match funds issued by the state to fund restoration of the 76-year-old bridge. If council members approve the transfer, the Tennessee Department of Transportation will use the funds to restore the bridge.
   State contracts on the bridge project are scheduled to be received by Dec. 12 with the bridge's restoration projected to cost roughly $1 million, according to the city.
   Built in 1926, the Elk Avenue Bridge extends across the Doe River, roughly half a city block from the historic Covered Bridge.
   City council members also approved on first reading two requests for city annexation on the county's far west side -- Emmanuel School of Religion and the Richard Clark property.