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Upon further review: Stadium vote delayed

Photo by Brandon Hicks

Time out.
Or perhaps a delay of game?
Either way, the Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission made no decision Thursday night on the final site plans for the new stadium at Elizabethton High School.
The commission voted 4-3 to recess until Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. to allow members more time to review the plans after they were delayed in delivery from the Elizabethton Planning office.
Commissioner Dena Bass made the motion for the group to recess after she said she was not comfortable voting on the plans less than 24 hours after receiving them.
“I don’t think the commission has had enough time to look this over,” Bass said. “This is a multimillion dollar project. I don’t think we have ever had project this big to come before us before.”
Planning Director Jon Hartman apologized for the delay in the informational packet delivery, explaining that he had been out of town last week and the Labor Day holiday added an extra delay in getting the information ready and distributed from his office.
While the commission, school system administrators and the architect for the project were all together, the commission did address some of the concerns they had with the project, specifically in parking.
Chairman Paul Bellamy said he was concerned there was not enough parking for the amount of activity planned for the stadium.
The plans called for 403 parking spaces in the main student parking lot and in the new parking lot that will be built behind the school building on the west side of the campus. This number does not include the parking spaces in the front of the school.
The stadium will have 3,500 spectator seats, which does not include the players, band members or other workers that would be in the facility.
Hartman acknowledged the parking would not accommodate all the traffic that would be at the school on a home football game night. He said there were contingency plans in place to address the extra parking needs.
He said on-street parking would be available on Jason Witten Way, and if necessary the two outer lanes of Bemberg Road would be closed for parking. He said also the city was working to arrange agreements with neighboring businesses that would be closed during game times.
“We don’t want to take parking away from businesses that would be open then,” he said. “The goal is to keep everything as close to the school as possible.”
He added he would caution the commission about creating an excess parking situation that would only be used five days a year during the home games.
Commissioner Vicky Manuel added that almost no school would be able to develop a parking area to handle the traffic that comes on home game nights.
“It would be hard for any school to meet adequate parking for ballgame nights,” she said. Bass expressed concerns that the additional parking behind the school, combined with the on-street parking on Jason Witten Way, would cause a bigger traffic tangle on that side of the school even on days when there is no game but different teams are practicing after school.
Manuel said that with the extra parking behind the school, the off-street parking would be relieved in those situations and would improve traffic.
“There is no parking now in that area behind the school,” she said. “This would take some of that congestion off of Jason Witten Way and it would help alleviate that.”
Bass made the motion to recess that was seconded by Bill Carter. Bass, Carter, Bellamy and Tradway voted in favor of the recess and Manuel, Melanie Sellars and Ron Kirby voted against.
VanHuss said the school system was comfortable with waiting a few days to allow the commission more time to review the plans.
“We want everyone to feel comfortable,” he said. “If that takes until Tuesday, that is fine with us.”