On first reading, Johnson City commissioners approved rezoning the parcel, located where South Greenwood Drive intersects Willow Springs Drive, from a low density residential district, R-2, to a planned residential district, RP-3, during their meeting Nov. 7. The rezoning, which would allow the project to proceed, needs two more rounds of approval from the City Commission before it becomes official.
Vice Mayor Joe Wise recused himself from the vote because of an existing business relationship.
The applicant, Tim Carter, said Wednesday he initially indicated the homes would be in the $150,000 to $300,000 price range, but they will likely end up having a price of $200,000 to $300,000. Carter would be developing the lots, and then a national builder, who Carter said he cannot yet identify, will come in and construct the homes.
If the project receives full approval, Carter said the homes will likely be complete by the end of 2022.
Carter is a real estate agent and was handling the property for about a year and half before he decided to tackle a project there.
“There’s not been too many people out there knocking down the doors to buy it,” he said.
Carter said there’s a need for starter homes in Johnson City.
“Young families just don’t have a place to go,” he said. He said families pushed out into Washington County have a high likelihood of settling in the county permanently or until their kids get out of school.
Johnson City Development Coordinator Asongayi Venard told commissioners during their meeting last week the parcel was annexed into the city in 2003 and zoned RP-3 in 2005. At the time, there were plans for a 175-unit condominium project. In 2012, a church purchased the property and requested the zoning designation change to R-2, which would allow them to build a church on the land.
Tennessee property data indicates the parcel has a total market appraisal of about $199,000 and is still owned by Siempre Gozosos Freewill Baptist Church. If the project moves forward, Carter said the property would be sold to his company, Site Consultants, Inc.
Venard said the proposed subdivision would be consistent with the character of the surrounding properties, which are zoned residential.
“One of the big issues we had in the rezoning of this property, especially from the neighborhood, was concern about traffic on Willow Springs Drive,” he said.
Willow Springs Drive is a local street, which Venard said are made to handle up to 1,500 vehicle trips per day.
By conducting a traffic count, the city determined the road currently handles roughly 513 vehicle trips maximum per day, which leaves a maximum leeway of 987 trips. Responding to a question from commissioners, Venard said the number of proposed dwelling units in the subdivision would more than double the amount of traffic on the road, but the number would still be well below its total capacity.
The subdivision’s main entrance and exit will be off of Willow Springs Drive, and there will be no driveways or road connections to South Greenwood Drive, which handles roughly 4,700 trips per day.
Members of the existing neighborhood were also concerned about stormwater management, which Venard said will be handled in the subdivision process.
“The city’s regulation is the net flow out of that site has to be zero,” he said. “If only 100 cubic feet of water is leaving that site, post-construction no more than 100 cubic feet can leave that site.”
Development Services Director Preston Mitchell said Wednesday that other concerns about the subdivision, including the proposed square footage of the homes and their market value, aren’t issues the city can regulate. The number of lots proposed on the land is lower than the maximum allowable density.
Holistically, Mitchell said the city is continuing to get a steady rate of subdivision development, which is driven by market demand and low interest rates.
“This is both a regional and a national trend is that when interest rates continue to remain low you will see subdivision development,” Mitchell said. Higher interest rates typically encourage more multi-family development.
Mitchell said the project would be constructed in a part of town where Johnson City is seeing active subdivision growth. Driven in part by geographic constraints, the city is seeing more subdivisions coming to two parts of the city: On the northwest corner of the city around Boones Creek and in the southwest corner around Greenwood Drive.