Hitting facility plan given OK, but Planning Commission on record against property’s use

Published 9:58 am Monday, February 5, 2024

By Buzz Trexler
Star Correspondent
What seemed like an easy out Thursday night at the Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission meeting became something of a “Who’s on First?” when the planned baseball training facility at Riverside Park came up.

The plot plan was the last of three items seeking commissioners’ consent and it had already been administratively approved by the planning staff. Not only had it received administrative approval, but groundbreaking for the 4,800-square-foot facility took place more than a week before the meeting, which is not all that unusual, said Assistant City Manager Logan Engle. “It happens quite often, before we get plans, or before you all get plans,” she told commissioners. “It’s a more common occurrence.”

Commissioners expressed various concerns, largely questioning whether it was good use of an existing baseball field or the property itself. The facility is being funded by donations and will provide batting cages and pitching lanes to players from Elizabethton High School and the community.

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“The parks and rec department has been involved with this from very early in the stages,” Engle said. “So, they’ve made the determination, it’s my understanding, that there is no long-term need for this particular field.”

Chief Building Inspector Steve Donnolly told commissioners the current plan is the third or fourth plan he was aware of for a facility at the ballfield. “When I first got here, it was gonna be about the same spot, a little closer to the parking lot, and almost just that much size, not bigger, and one side was gonna be parks and one side was going to be a hitting facility,” he said.

The discussion included various baseball puns, such as “Who’s on First?” and “inside baseball,” but after about 15 minutes of commissioners tossing comments around, Chairwoman Dena Bass indicated the pitch clock had run out.

“This has already been administratively approved,” she said, explaining that the motion and subsequent vote would be the commissioners merely going on record with whether they think “it’s a good idea or a bad idea.”

In the end, commissioners voted 4 to 1 to not give their consent to approval of the plan.