Land purchase to expand Washington County Industrial Park scheduled to close Friday

Zach Vance • Apr 2, 2018 at 5:45 PM

A retooled Washington County Economic Development Council, now made up of just three members, promptly voted Monday to contribute funding toward the expansion of the Washington County Industrial Park in Telford.

Johnson City Manager Pete Peterson and Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge, now the chairman of the Development Council, voted to transfer $237,445 of the council’s funds toward the $590,500 cost to purchase 37-acres of land along Blalock Road owned by Mary Sanders. The council’s third member, Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest, was absent from the meeting.

In September, the Washington County Commission authorized the county mayor to enter into a purchase agreement with Sanders, which entailed the county paying the $353,055 difference to buy the land. Eldridge said the deal is scheduled to close Friday. 

Eldridge said the new land will allow for the development of an intermediate-sized, “pad-ready” industrial site. 

“Right now, we’ve got the 21-acre site and the 67 acres. This is about 37 acres. So it’s an intermediate-size piece of property and provides access to another county road, which gives us alternative ingress and egress,” Eldridge said. “We actually had a prospect that looked at the one entrance to the Development Park off U.S. (Highway) 11-E and said, ‘We’re going to turn 600 employees in and 600 employees out in a matter of 10 minutes? We don’t think one intersection can handle it.’ So this gives us another entrance and exit.” 

In a letter attached to the County Commission’s February agenda, Tom Patton, president of the engineering firm Tysinger, Hampton and Partners, Inc., said he felt a secondary outlet was necessary, especially if an industry with a high number of jobs moves into the park. 

Patton said it would be possible to extend Blalock Road to provide that secondary outlet on the northern part of Sanders’ property. The engineer also said the access road would provide access to three additional parcels of land, should the county ever decide to continue the industrial park’s expansion.

With the Sanders’ property immediately adjacent to the other two industrial sites, Eldridge said the the cost to extend utilities, such as water, electricity and sewer, will be minimal. 

“And quite frankly, it’s the least expensive industrial property that we’ve been able to identify,” the mayor said. 

Washington County owns 105 acres in the park and across U.S. 11-E. Three tenants reside in the park, including farm implement maker Alo, automotive components manufacturer JTEKT and bearings maker Nakatetsu Machining Technologies.

Eldridge and Peterson also set a date to appoint the new members of the Economic Development Council’s board. In February, the council voted to adopt new bylaws by which the organization will no longer be a fee-based organization whose members contribute an annual pledge. 

The new bylaws also spelled out that the mayors of Washington County and Jonesborough and the city manager of Johnson City would be the first members of the council, and they would appoint the remaining six representatives.