Cookout renews building contract

Elizabethton City Planner Jon Hartman announced during the Joint Economic and Community Board meeting last week Cookout had officially been renewed on their building contract to expand into Elizabethton, marking three years of potential miscommunication and a lack of progress from the company to finalize plans and begin construction.

“The initial agreement was approved in February of 2016,” Hartman said.

After that, he said, the ball has been in their court. They approved the land purchase at Long John Silver’s shortly after the initial agreement. He said the company even sent in several blueprints for the restaurant, but they never actually came in to get their building permits.

“It seemed like there was some confusion over who was doing what,” Hartman said.

He said they repeatedly ran into issues that would cause a delay in the project.

“There was always some excuse,” he said. “In the first year, they said they were finishing buildings in west Tennessee, and they could not get the resources over here.”

Eventually, they ran out of time, and when Cookout sent in another blueprint in February 2019, Hartman said it was a month past their three-year deadline.

“This is a state law,” he said. “The developer has three years to get permits. This is to protect businesses.”

In essence, the Planning Commission approves building permits within three years of the agreement so a change to building codes does not unfairly force the builders to modify their blueprints mid-project. By failing to meet their three-year window, Cookout then had to resubmit their plan to the Planning Commission in order to be approved. Hartman said this occurred without much incident.

“There are really no changes to the building plan,” Hartman said.

He said the next step, once again, is in Cookout’s court.

“He could have walked in one day, asked for a permit, and he would have gotten it that day,” Hartman said. “We like to get the site and architectural plans at the same time, so they can begin construction the very next day.”

He said Cookout does have a demolition permit open to clear the old Long John Silver’s, which he said is open until November. If they fail to demolish the site by then, they will need to reapply for that permit as well.

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