Planners rezone West Elk

  By Thomas Wilson
star staff   

A proposal rezoning 40 parcels of land on West Elk Avenue from manufacturing to business use won approval from the Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission on Tuesday night.
  Commission members voted 6-0 to rezone nearly 300 acres of property along West Elk Avenue where commercial enterprises have taken over from former industrial companies that once dominated the area.
  "This reflects the actual property use as it exists today rather than what it was zoned for 20 years ago," city Planning Director David Ornduff told the commission. "There will be no nonconforming uses in this rezoning."
  The rezoning covers 299 acres, 40 parcels, 54 structures, and 1.5 miles of street frontage along West Elk Avenue.
  The parcels include the new Wal-Mart and Lowe's superstores as well as the Betsytowne, Elk Crossing, and Carter County Plaza shopping centers. The rezoning also includes the former Inland Paperboard and Packaging property, the North American Polyester property, and the area surrounding Sycamore Shoals Hospital.
  The rezoning changes manufacturing land use zones of M-2 to a B-2 arterial business zone. The Carter County Plaza shopping center represented the lone tract with an M-1 manufacturing designation.
  Ornduff said the rezoning does not prohibit any existing land use currently in effect on the properties in question.
  Commission adviser Charles Alley of the state government's Regional Planning Office in Johnson City said municipal governments around the Tri-Cities are altering industrial zones into business use areas. He said the region's economic shift from industrial to a service-based economy is showing up more often in zoning changes by area planning bodies.
  "It is becoming more and more common in communities," Alley said. "When we wrote the ordinances industry was at an all time high; it is not now.
  "It is easier to develop in a business zone."
  A possible retail development divulged by Commission Chairman Haynes Elliott highlights the town's ongoing cultural change from industrial center to retailing nook.
  Elliott told the STAR Tuesday night that an out-of-state realty firm marketing the Inland property is negotiating with developers to create another shopping center on the corrugated packaging company's land.
  The publicly traded Temple-Inland Corporation based in Dallas, Texas owns the facility and property. The company closed its West Elk Avenue facility last year resulting in over 200 employees losing their jobs.
  The commission also voted 6-0 to recommend renaming Navajo Drive as Charles Robinson Drive in honor of the Elizabethton Star's late publisher. Robinson died in July.
  "Everybody liked Charlie, and we just felt it was the right thing to do," Elliott said of the proposal that was recommended by Commissioner Victor Deloach
  Extending off Cherokee Drive in the Cherokee Industrial Park the street is expected to become an enormous carrier of vehicles as retail business develops and the Northern Connector highway project takes shape in coming years.