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Kingsport may pursue 126 new homes, 'green space' at Brickyard

Rick Wagner • Jun 16, 2020 at 8:30 AM

KINGSPORT —  Kingsport officials seem to be strongly leaning toward turning the part of Brickyard Park next to the Riverview community into a residential area of 126 new homes and green space. And a city official said that’s more than fine with Riverview residents and advocates who’ve given input on the plans.

Also, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen at a Monday work session appeared to be leaning against a proposal to rezone the Hunger First property on Center Street to allow the nonprofit to provide dormitory-type housing for the homeless, reflecting both a staff recommendation and the sentiment of a majority of public input.

WHAT WOULD BE THE SELLING PRICE OF BRICKYARD HOMES?

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen at its 90-minute Monday work session got a presentation from Economic Development Director Jason Hudson on a staff recommendation for the city-owned 39 acres of the Brickyard property, which was formerly owned by General Shale Brick and is next to Cement Hill.

The other option is using much of the property for light industrial, while a minor league baseball venue is no longer under consideration next to the MIracle Field, which is nearing completion.

“There are folks who think we are still going to build a baseball stadium there,” Mayor Pat Shull said during the work session.

“We need to cut bait and get started on this,” Alderman Tommy Olterman said of the residential plan, which Alderman James Phillips said is sorely needed because Kingsport is hamstrung in attracting new residents by a lack of residential homes around $200,0000 to $225,000.

Vice Mayor Colette George indicated it would be unlikely industrial prospects would be interested in the property since it was on the market for that purpose for 15 years. Hudson said there is 250,000 square fee of light industrial-suited property in the region, including some that is shovel-ready.

Hudson said Kingsport and the region need more reasonably priced residential homes to help attract taxpayers and workers to the region. He said Johnson City has more newer residential construction, with 22% of its residential offerings built since 2000 compared to only 12% in Kingsport. And he said the last time Kingsport built more residential homes than Johnson City was about 1960.

Also, Hudson said the proposed $225,000 homes would meet demand for homes in that price range. Since 2014, he said homes built in Kingsport have averaged $384,000, while those built from 2011 to 2013 averaged $211,000.

Hudson said the green space formerly was called a festival ground, but he said Riverview residents thought that was too much like a fairgrounds. He said the green space still could be used for concerts and such, and Shull suggested including something like the walking path/track at Ridgefields.

The overall idea, which City Manager Chris McCartt said likely would come before the BMA for a vote in August, would be to market the Main Street property nearby along with the 39 acres that is part of the Brickyard at the same time but separately.

WHAT ABOUT HUNGER FIRST?

As for the rezoning of 1100 Oak St. from B-3, highway oriented business, to R-3, low-density apartment district, Planning Manager Ken Weems said in public input on the matter — six emails, 17 phone calls and 10 Planning Commission public commenters — all but two speakers at the planning commission and one phone caller were against the plan. The matter is up for a vote at the Tuesday BMA meeting starting at 7 p.m. Limited seats (16) because of the pandemic will be available in City Hall for the public, with online access and an overflow area in the lobby also available.

The opposition cited safety concerns of people crossing the road and schoolchildren passing the address, with complaints of public indecency, theft, littering and late-night activities in the area. The supporters cited a need for the homeless to get into a safe place, he said.

The commission recommended against the rezoning, which would be “spot” rezoning in a residential area and that Weems said likely would require a complete variation on parking normally required for such zoning. George said that would lead to others seeking B-3 feeling they deserved a parking waiver and the property forever having such a waiver attached to it even if Hunger First left the property.

The city has cited Hunger First for having overnight guests at the building, which adjoins a residential neighborhood but also is near commercial establishments.

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