Elizabethton City Council approves plans to apply for ARC grant

John Thompson • Updated Nov 14, 2019 at 9:49 PM

ELIZABETHTON — The Elizabethton City Council voted 6-0 to apply for a $500,000 Appalchian Regionaql Commission grant that will require matching funds to help in the restoration of the Bonnie Kate Theater.

Councilman Kim Birchfield was absent.

There was no comment before the vote was taken and the vote went smoothly.

The federal grant requires a 30 percent matching grant from “at-risk” counties like Carter County. That means the council would have to match the grant with $214,288 in city funds. If the theater is not approved for the grant, the funds from the city would not be needed.

This would be the first large grant that would be provided to the restoration of the 1926-era movie theater. The theater was acquired when the Elizabethton/Carter County Community Foundation raised $111,700 in an effort to buy it from its lien holder.

It was the largest fund drive the foundation has ever had. The foundation then presented the building to the city because under its charter it is barred from owning property.

Since then, the foundation and the Bonnie Kate Theater Restoration Board have held several fundraisers, including the series of Covered Bridge BBQ, Brews, and Blues Festivals. Proceeds from those fundraisers went to install a new roof and fire sprinkler system.

The grant would be the largest amount of funds for the renovation that did not come from local fundraising efforts.

One matter before the council took the most time, but in the end the matter was deferred until the Planning Commission could rework the matter. It was a proposal too amend the zoning map on the west entrance to the downtown from B-3 (central business district) to B-2 arterial business district).

The amendment would be made to allow a small car lot to continue to be able to sell cars on the location in the future. There are several automotive businesses in the small area that do not conform to the zoning, but are grandfathered in. If any of the businesses cease operation on the location for 30 months, the grandfather protection would cease. Used car lots are permitted in a B-3 zone. 

The matter went to the City Council after the Planing Commission’s decision ended in a tie vote.

Mayor Curt Alexander spoke for several of the council members when he said he usually takes the recommendation of the Planning Commission. In deferring, the matter now goes back to the Planning Department to work out a solution.