Engines will continue to rumble in downtown Elizabethton

Published 11:07 pm Thursday, February 10, 2022

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The Elizabethton City Council voted on Thursday to approve the Carter County Car Club weekly cruise-in events in downtown Elizabethton.
A standing-room-only crowd was on hand for the vote, with the council spending nearly 90 minutes on the issue.
“If you are here to talk about anything other than the car show, you are welcome to come forward and speak,” said Mayor Curt Alexander. “The reason we are not going to hear car show comments tonight is we have had six months of those comments and we had a workshop on Monday so there is probably nothing that you can bring to comments that we haven’t already heard or taken into consideration.
“We just felt that we don’t want to fire back at each other whether you are pro or con or where you stand because we have already had six months of those comments.”
Alexander said the council has received increasing complaints about people coming early to the cruise-in events and setting up chairs in front of businesses, hampering customers’ access.
“I am not putting the blame on you (car club) because the City Council has not been enforcing (the recent agreements),” said Alexander. “You have to show respect for downtown businesses and not let a couple of bad apples ruin the whole bunch. We want to help you but when I read those comments (on social media) it ticks me off.”
New Carter County Car Club President Thomas Franklin addressed the council on behalf of the club.
“We want to help children and we want families to come and spend time together,” said Franklin. “We have to have the business people to help because we want to maintain the status quo because all the money is given away. We have a lot of problems with unity. The car club as well as people here in town needs unity. We need to do better because we have one of the best family events here in East Tennessee than anywhere else in the state. Everyone gains when we do this.”
Jane Mullins, owner of the Peddler’s Cart, was recognized and given an opportunity to speak.
“This is a great community and a loving community and the reason that I have been doing business here for the last 10 years,” Mullins said. “Right now, I am so ashamed my business is here because of the chaos over the car cruise-in – it’s embarrassing. As a community we need to come up with a better situation. In the future, we need to get the merchants together and address problems in round tables and not get it out everywhere.”
The Council agreed to approve the cruise-in application and make amendments to help all parties involved.
One amendment made by Councilman Jeff Treadway and seconded by Councilman Richard Barker was to give approval for a three-month trial run from April to July to see if the recommendations made will work before giving the final approval for the remaining months of August through October.
That amendment was defeated 4-3 with Councilmen Bill Carter, Kim Birchfield, Michael Simerly, and Alexander voting no.
Two amendments were added to the approved application with both motions being made by Treadway.
The first amendment states that if a second entity were to request to use the downtown area and properly present their request to the council 30 days prior to the event for consideration, and upon approval of the council for a weekend the cruise-in is occurring, work will be done to accommodate both events. The vote was 6-1 in favor of approving the amendment addition.
The second amendment involved businesses that wished to have a special event, that if notice were given within 14 days, that the car cruise-in would work to help make access available with no more than two events happening on the same evening and would be handled in a first-come, first-serve basis. The vote was once again 6-1 in favor of adding the amendment.
When the final vote was cast, the outcome was 5-2 in favor of approving the car cruise-ins beginning in April and running through October with the approved amendments included. Barker and Councilman Wes Frazier cast the no votes.
“My concern is that it is impacting businesses to have the car show every week,” said Barker who also serves on Main Street Elizabethton. “My preference is to move the car show to E Street.”
Barker said that the recent in-depth survey conducted by East Tennessee State University showed that 71% of businesses said that something needed to change about the car show. He said 48 businesses responded to the survey.
Frazier echoed the same sentiments in regard to the survey as the reason behind his vote.
“To me, it’s all about the taxpayers and the businesses,” said Frazier. “When 71% say they want change, you need to do something. We have been trying to work with the car club but honestly I just don’t trust them.”

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