Commission approves purchase of land to build park

Published 5:18 pm Tuesday, December 12, 2017

In a split vote, members of the Carter County Commission voted to purchase a parcel of land to be developed into a community park during the group’s meeting on Monday evening.

Last week, members of the county’s Budget Committee approved taking $44,000 from the fund balance reserves and transferring it to the Parks and Recreation Committee’s budget for the purchase of a 9.3 acre parcel of land near the intersection of the old Gap Creek Road and Mary Patton Highway. The measure passed the committee unanimously.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

During the public comments portion of Monday’s Commission meeting, two local residents who serve on the Parks and Recreation Committee voiced their support for the project and asked the Commission to approve the funds.

Committee member Charles Mattioli shared his thoughts on the proposed park, saying “our county needs it.”

“There are no softball fields left in the Elizabethton area,” Mattioli said. “We used to have 900 people playing in church leagues.”

Mattioli asked the Commission to support the project and noted that Grant Summers of Summers-Taylor construction company has already pledged a $10,000 in-kind donation toward the development of the park.

Committee member Mike Melton also asked the Commission to support the purchase of the land, stating he feels parks are an important part of any community.

“Parks are a place to play, get in touch with the environment, and maybe get in touch with our Creator,” Melton said.

When Budget Committee Chairwoman Sonja Culler presented the funding request to the full Commission, some members of the county’s governing body said they had some concerns with the purchase and the property.

Commissioner Ronnie Trivett noted that while he voted to approve the funds during the Budget Committee meeting, he has since then visited the property and has “some reservations” about the purchase.

Trivett was not the only one to voice concerns. His fellow District 3 representative Commissioner Charles VonCannon said he opposed the purchase, calling it “a bad investment.”

According to VonCannon, the property is landlocked and will need a bridge to be constructed to access the area. He also said there is an 80-foot tall cliff on the property which limits how much of the land can actually be used. He also said there is not enough viable space to construct the ball fields and have sufficient parking.

“Folks, it ain’t going to happen because the math don’t add up,” VonCannon said.

Carter County Planning Director Chris Schuettler spoke to the Commission and showed them a survey of the land recently conducted. According to Schuettler, VonCannon was looking at the wrong area of the tax maps, and the county was not considering the purchase of the property which VonCannon was speaking about.

Schuettler used the survey map as well as an aerial view of the area through the Google Earth application to show precisely where the property is, how it can be accessed. The property has a paved access which was created by TDOT according to Schuettler.

Plans for the park include constructing two softball fields, a dog park, picnic area and walking trails, according to Schuettler.

“Basically it’s going to be a mini-Roan Mountain park,” Schuettler said. “I think the Roan Mountain Community Park is one of the best things to happen in Carter County in the last 20 years.”

According to Commissioner Randall Jenkins, the project has already been reviewed by the Planning Commission, the Parks and Recreation Committee, the Buildings and Grounds Committee, and the Budget Committee. Jenkins, who serves on all of those committees except for the Budget Committee, said those groups have thoroughly looked over the project.

“We didn’t come in here half-cocked,” Jenkins told his fellow commissioners. “This is our chance to be pro-active.”

Jenkins said grant funding is available to develop the land into a park, but first the county must own the land to qualify for those grants.

When the matter came to a vote, the funding request passed the Commission by a vote of 19-2. Commissioners Willie Campbell, Buford Peters, Dr. Robert Acuff, Nancy Brown, Mike Hill, Al Meehan, Bradley Johnson, Isaiah Grindstaff, L.C. Tester, Danny Ward, Ross Garland, Timothy Holdren, Randall Jenkins, John Lewis, Sonja Culler, Ray Lyons, Robert Carroll, Kelly Collins, and Cody McQueen voted in favor of approving the funds. Commissioners Trivett and VonCannon opposed the measure. Commissioners Larry “Doc” Miller and Scott Simerly were absent. Commissioner Bobbie Gouge-Dietz had been in attendance at the meeting but had to leave prior to this vote being brought to the floor.