Paving company takes City to court over Mill Street truck ban

By Bob Robinson

Star STAFF

   Enforcement of a City of Elizabethton ordinance prohibiting "No Thru Trucks" on Mill Street is in limbo pending the outcome of legal proceedings in Carter County Chancery Court.
   The non-jury trial is scheduled to be heard Jan. 9, 2002 by Chancellor G. Richard Johnson. The trial was postponed July 3, 2001 and Sept. 13, 2001, pending completion of discovery.
   Residents of Mill Street have complained to Elizabethton City Council about speeding motorists and heavy trucks in their residential neighborhood. Motorists take Mill Street as a shortcut between West Elk Avenue and the Bristol Highway, thereby avoiding traffic lights and congestion on Broad Street.
   The posted speed limit on Mill Street is 25 miles per hour. On Broad Street it is 35 miles per hour.
   On March 29, 2001, Construction and Paving Services, Inc. (CAPS) sought and was granted a Temporary Restraining Order by Circuit Court Judge Thomas J. Seeley Jr. prohibiting the City of Elizabethton from enforcing compliance with the "No Thru Truck" signs on Mill Street.
   Records in the Carter County Court Clerk's office show a business license for Construction and Paving Services, Inc., owned by Mary E. Hyder, P.O. Box 607, Elizabethton, TN 37643, was issued on October 13, 1992.
   The Elizabethton Telephone Directory, issued November 2001, indicates "Construction Asphalt Paving Services" is located at 311 Cherokee Park Drive, Elizabethton.
   On April 11, 2001, CAPS filed legal action against the City of Elizabethton, seeking "declaratory, injunctive and monetary relief" due to the "wrongful closing of Mill Street in Elizabethton to commercial thru truck traffic."
   Timothy B. McConnell of the firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman & Caldwell, 207 Mockingbird Lane, Johnson City, filed the suit on behalf of CAPS.
   According to the complaint, CAPS uses large commercial trucks to transport gravel, dirt, sand and asphalt from its business location at 311 Cherokee Industrial Drive to various job sites in Northeast Tennessee.
   It is alleged the City of Elizabethton violated the constitutional rights of CAPS in using Mill Street, "the most direct route of travel in the operation of its business."
   On April 30, 2001, the attorney for CAPS filed a request for the City of Elizabethton to respond to interrogatories and produce documents pertaining to:
   * City streets closed to commercial thru truck traffic;
   * Placement of four-way stop signs at West Mill Street and Hemlock and North Roan Streets;
   * Placement and timing of traffic signals at West Mill Street and West Elk Avenue, East Mill Street and North Lynn Avenue, West Elk Avenue and Broad Street, Broad Street and North Lynn Avenue;
   * Posted speed limits on West Mill Street between West Elk Avenue and North Lynn Street, West Elk Avenue between West Mill Street and Broad Street, Broad Street between West Elk and North Lynn Avenues;
   * Need for the West Mill Street improvement project between West Elk and North Lynn Avenues.
   On May 7, 2001, Judge Seeley continued his March 29 Temporary Restraining Order and ordered the City of Elizabethton to take no action to prosecute citations issued to Matthew J. Helms and Gary Wayne Person for violating the "No Thru Truck" signs.
   Judge Seeley also vacated a portion of the Temporary Restraining Order which prohibited the City of Elizabethton from "authorizing or taking, whether it be by ordinance, motion or resolution, any action which would prohibit commercial truck traffic on Mill Street."
   The judge continued the prohibition on the City of Elizabethton from enforcing compliance of the "No Thru Truck" signs "until further Order of this Court."
   On June 14, 2001, Elizabethton City Council passed ordinance No. 37-13 "which prohibit(s) commercial vehicles on residential streets except for the purpose of making local deliveries." The ordinance, for the purpose of "clarity and understanding," stated "Mill Street is designated a residential street and commercial traffic is prohibited on this street pursuant to this ordinance."
   "Mill Street has always been designated as a residential street and no action has been taken by Elizabethton City Council to change this designation," the ordinance states.
   Previously, City Council adopted a Major Thoroughfare Plan, recommended by the Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission, which designated certain streets as "residential" and others to be used by trucks and other commercial traffic.
   City Council, at its next meeting on Dec. 13, is expected to consider a Neighborhood Traffic Management Program (NTMP).
   NTMP, intended for residential neighborhoods, calls for the use of various "traffic calming devices," including speed bumps, to make streets safer.
   Speeding motorists are a problem in all parts of the city, Mayor Sam LaPorte told members of Elizabethton City Council at their last meeting.
   "Something needs to be done now to make residential streets safer," Mayor LaPorte said.