Neighbor files restraining order against city

Published 9:41 am Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Department has released a line-up of summer concerts to be held at the Covered Bridge Stage. But if downtown property owner Tom Cowan gets his way, those events will never take place.
Cowan filed a notice of hearing for a temporary restraining order against the City of Elizabethton and City Manager Jerome Kitchens on Monday afternoon. The request for the order centers on the Covered Bridge Stage and Cowan’s goal to have the stage “demolished and removed from the Covered Bridge Park.”
A hearing has been set for May 21 at 9 a.m. in Chancery Court to determine if a temporary restraining order can be issued to halt construction and use of the stage stopped until a final hearing on the case can be heard.
In the petition for declaratory judgement, Cowan asserts the structure does not meet city ordinance requirements for off-street parking, noise regulations, and set back requirements.
Not only does Cowan want a judge to order construction on the stage stopped and the structure demolished and removed, but he is also requesting that the city not be allowed to use the Covered Bridge Park or surrounding areas for “the playing of any radio, phonograph, or any musical instrument, or any sound device.” This includes loudspeakers, anything that amplifies sound, concerts and “singing on public streets” that disturbs the “quiet, comfort or repose of any person.”
According to Cowan’s petition, the property is located in the B-4 zone, which requires a minimum of 40 off-street parking spaces, which he states are not present near the park.
Cowan also cites city code 11-201 and 11-202 that city-owned property should be managed as not to disturb the peace and that any unreasonably loud disturbance and unnecessary noise is prohibited. He also lists that the property should not be used until a certificate of occupancy is granted.
Cowan also argues that structures in the B-3 zone should not be constructed “further than five feet from the property line” – a regulation he contends the stage does not meet.
Until the final hearing on the case can be heard, Cowan is asking a judge to grant a temporary restraining order prohibiting the city from using the Covered Bridge park, the stage or the streets around the park for any use including concerts, amusement events, entertainment shows or public assemblies that use amplifiers, speakers, singing or other “sound generating” activities.
Kitchens declined to discuss the legal aspects of the notice, but said the city hopes to have the issue resolved before the May 21 court date. The city has asked attorney Roger Day to contact chancellor John Rambo to get it “resolved as soon as possible.”
“We would prefer to handle this sooner rather than later,” Kitchens said. “We have the Covered Bridge Celebration coming up in June and we would love to get the festival back to the bridge.”
Construction on the stage is almost completed, with only finishing work and painting left to be done. The work will continue up until the hearing date, Kitchens said.
“We don’t believe we have done anything wrong,” he said. “We expect to use the park as an additional attraction to bring adults and families into the parks, and into downtown Elizabethton.”
Cowan could not be reached for comment.

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