Stadium rotation a turn “in the right direction”

Published 9:27 am Friday, October 3, 2014

For the Elizabethton City School system, it turns out that a 90-degree turn was a turn in the right direction.
However, planning officials want more detail before giving a final blessing to a new Elizabethton High School stadium project, so permits and construction are still on hold.
The Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission voted 6-1 to give approval to preliminary conceptual site plans for the revised Elizabethton High School stadium project. But the group made it clear they still need more details before moving ahead with the project.
Even though the original plans had gained approval from the planning commission, the school system returned to present site plan changes and seek the commission’s approval.
Commissioner Ron Kirby said the changes were an improvement from what was first presented to the commission.
“This is more along the lines of what we want to see,” Kirby said. “I think you are moving in the right direction.”
Changes from the last presentation included turning the stadium 90 degrees from its original proposed position to address parking and safety concerns the commission had. The stadium would also be moved 250 feet to the west, out of the student parking lot and into a grassy area and baseball field, and will face east and west instead of north and south.
Commissioner Vicky Manuel praised the school system for “going the extra mile” by bringing back the changes to the commission to show them improvements had been made.
Commissioner Melanie Sellers echoed their sentiments. She said the changes were “definitely a move in a better direction.” She cited the additional parking spaces on campus and the possibility that others could be added in the future in the remaining green spaces.
But Commissioner Dena Bass expressed her concerns that the plans did not have enough detail. She said the plans for the changes submitted were basically “a sketch” and did not contain necessary information, like setbacks, building dimensions and other plan components.
“Aesthetically it might fit better, and it does address the safety concerns on Jason Witten Way and some of the parking, but it is hard to say if this is going to work without those dimensions,” she said.
At the September school board meeting, VanHuss said budgeting for the new parking lot on the west side of the EHS campus behind the building led to increased costs because of environmental regulations. However, by moving the stadium, the need for the new parking lot was eliminated.
The main focus was on the parking and student safety, he added. The plan revisions would also increase the number of parking spaces from 460 to more than 600.
Another concern presented by the planning commission was that the new stadium plan didn’t have enough overflow space for the most heavily attended games, such as the one between EHS and Science Hill High School.
To address that, VanHuss said dirt removed during construction would be used to build an earthen berm at the western end of the field. The berm would provide an angled surface to sit on to see the field, and a flattened top would provide extra space for people who bring lawn chairs to sit in.
Planning Director Jon Hartman explained that with a conceptual plan approval, no building permits would be granted and construction could not start until the final plans are submitted for the development committee and the planning commission to review.
“This is just for the benefit of the developer so that they know if they are moving in the right direction before they go ahead and spend money on plans that the commission might not be OK with,” he said.
Commissioners Bill Carter, Jeff Treadway, Paul Bellamy, Kirby, Manuel and Sellers voted in favor of the conceptual plans. Bass voted against, stating she did not think enough information had been included with the plans.
The commission also voted 4-3 to deny a request from Bill and Sharon Hampton to have their property at 105 Blevins Road de-annexed from the city.
Hampton said he wanted to be removed from the city because the only city service he was receiving for his tax money was trash pickup. Hampton said a lightning-started fire had occurred at his home in the past but claimed the city fire and police departments did not respond because they believed he was in the county. He said a county volunteer fire department responded to put out the fire.
He added that all the neighboring properties were in the county.
Hartman said the property had been annexed in the late 1990s or early 2000s. Hampton said he bought the property around six years ago.
Sellers made a motion to deny the request because the property was in the city at the time it was purchased. She added a stipulation that the planning department work with all other city departments to be clear which properties are in the city.
Bass, Manuel, Sellers and Treadway voted against the de-annexation. Bellamy, Carter and Kirby voted in favor.
The commission unanimously approved the planning department’s site plan review policy changes. The changes allow that any additions less than 15 percent in size of the existing property’s base square footage do not need to come before the planning commission if the addition meets all other requirements.

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