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Upstairs living gets zoning approval

The Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission approved rezoning a portion of downtown Elizabethton and some surrounding areas, a move that would allow increased residential opportunities in that area.
On Thursday, the board unanimously approved rezoning downtown property from E Street to Hattie Avenue and from Lynn Avenue to Highway 19E to the B3 business district.
Elizabethton Planning Director Jon Hartman said the rezoning allowed the city to enforce residential code changes were approved by the commission in its April meeting. The new zone also allows denser development in the area with smaller property setbacks.
The house code changes approved in April eliminated the unit requirement for downtown housing. The old requirement limited the maximum number of units per property to two.
Another change reversed the maximum square feet requirement. Hartman said the old downtown residential code limited all downtown housing units to no more than 800 square feet. Under the new requirements, all units have to have a minimum of 800 square feet.
The third change would allow developers to add a private off-street parking lot for residents if they wanted to choose that option.
No first-floor apartments would be allowed, to help the downtown preserve the mixed-use property atmosphere. The first-floor units are to be used for businesses or office space, and all upper-levels can be used for housing.
The commission’s Thursday actions require City Council approval.
Commissioners also unanimously approved a new flea market ordinance governing outdoor flea markets in the city limits.
Under the new ordinance, flea markets could be allowed in certain districts with a special events permit granted by the Board of Zoning Appeals. Once the permit was granted, it would be effective for the entire life of the flea market. After the flea market ceased to exist, the permit would be void.
The ordinance would allow outdoor flea markets to be held Friday through Sunday and on holidays from April to October. Outdoor furnishings, such as tables, tents and umbrellas would have to be stored inside. Hartman said this would eliminate theft and also improve the area’s appearance.
The proposed flea markets could not have any kind of negative impact on the neighboring properties with issues like lights, noise or parking. Also, the flea markets would have to provide restrooms, waste disposal and utilities, as determined necessary based on the size, frequency and duration of the market.
Hartman said the regulations would not apply to indoor flea markets, only outdoor ones. If an indoor flea market expanded to have vendors outside, then the flea market ordinance would apply to that business.
“Once the market moves outside, it affects the other properties and their values,” he said.
The commission also approved adding the Blue Grays Field to the city’s historic district.
The Blue Grays Field was the home of Elizabethton’s semi-pro black league baseball league from 1935 to 1955. The team was also a barnstorming league, which meant they traveled throughout the south playing road games.
“The city of Elizabethton has a very powerful and unique place in history regarding the era of the Negro leagues and independent barnstorming teams,” said Historic Zoning Commissioner Jacey Augustus in a previous meeting. “It is of the utmost importance to protect it. We are the only town in the area who can lay claim to being the home of a semi-pro Negro league.”