City Council approves first-reading of contested rezoning request

Published 9:37 am Friday, April 10, 2015

Elizabethton City Council approved on first reading a community-contested rezoning request that would allow for a new development on the west side of town.

Council voted 6-1 to rezone two parcels of land off of Parker Drive from R-1 residential to R-1A residential. The Planning Commission previously had approved request, presented by developer Chris Hollifield, before sending it to City Council for consideration.

Hollifield requested the rezoning of the land to allow for smaller, irregular-shaped lots to fit the rocky topography of the 5.1 acres of hillside land he had planned to buy to develop around 18 single-family homes

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After having an engineer look at the land, however, Hollifield discovered the lot was too rocky to develop all of the 5.1 acres. His future plans now include unfinished lots at the end of Parker Driver and about 1 acre of the available land.

“After looking and doing my due diligence, I am now looking at seven to nine homes maximum,” he said. “The plans have changed because of how the land lays.”

Council heard from residents in the surrounding neighborhoods who expressed their opposition to the future development. Those who spoke had also addressed the planning commission with the same concerns.

David Campbell told Council he was opposed to the future development because of concerns storm water runoff would increase.

“We already have rainwater collecting in our yards, and we are afraid if the topography characteristics change, then it will increase the storm water on my property,” Campbell said.

Kathy Castle asked council to deny the rezoning request because it would damage the community. She told the group she had previously fought two other rezoning requests for development; one was denied, and the other was approved. Storm water runoff and increased traffic were listed as her main concerns.

“This is very frustrating,” Castle said. “I have come before you to stop a rezoning three times. If this is approved, and it goes forward, there will be a lot of homes in that neighborhood for sale.”

Traffic concerns and public safety were reasons Jessica Houston gave against the future home construction. The neighborhood has 13 children and 16 dogs, she said, and families enjoyed getting out on the road walking for relaxation at the end of the day. She was concerned adding homes would further increase the traffic count.

“The roads are not capable of handling that kind of traffic,” Houston said. “I’m concerned for the landscape of the community. Development causes land disruptions. The previous developments have caused disruption and heartache for the homeowners.”

Hollifield’s development will be overseen by engineers and all proper procedures will be followed, he said.

“I feel like I am being made to pay for someone else’s mistakes,” he said.

The request before council included two parcels; the 5.1 acre lot and an adjoining property between it and the currently developed neighborhood. The adjoining property was not included in the request before the planning commission.

“Can we do this?” councilman Jeff Treadway asked. “Is it legal for us to consider two parcels when the planning commission approved one?”

The approval could include two parcels because Council gave the final approval in such cases, Mayor Curt Alexander said.

Councilman Wes Fraizer told the rest of the group he would like an opportunity to visit the land, which he hadn’t been able to do yet.

The request before Council was just the first reading for the rezoning, Alexander said. This means the request will be back again next month for a public hearing and final approval. After that, Hollifield will have to submit plans for the development to the Planning Commission.

“What I see here is we are holding one developer hostage because what was done before was not done correctly and was not completed,” Alexander said. “Development is always painful in the short term, but we have to make sure we are doing what is right for the city.”

Council approved the motion with Frazier voting against it.

Council also approved a contract for an archives grant for $3,500 for the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library for archival shelving and storage boxes.