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Johnson City approves U-Haul settlement

By Meredith Machen, mmachen@wcyb.com
Published On: Apr 18 2013 08:38:54 PM CDT
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. -

Johnson City commissioners have agreed to a settlement that would pay U-Haul for their downtown property.

This land will become a critical part of a master plan to ease flooding concerns downtown.

We learned the city has been trying to acquire this low-lying property for a couple of years, and this fall, a judge agreed they had to right to take it, but it had to come at a price.

Thursday night we learned more about what it will cost and why it's so important.

ZZ Tops, a screen printing and embroidery business at the corner of Boone and Market Streets, isn't immune to one of downtown Johnson City's biggest headaches.

"The flooding has always been an issue down here," said owner Gordon Shell. "We flooded last year."

Public Works Director Phil Pindzola told News 5 there's one piece of land that holds the key to fixing the problem, and U-Haul sits right on top of it.

We learned their property acts as a future retention pond under the city's flood mitigation plan.

"It simply involves excavation of about four to five feet down to the creek level, and then as the creek level rises, it will simply flood that particular area," Pindzola explained.

After Thursday night's commission meeting, Johnson City is as close as it's ever been to getting these flood woes fixed.

Commissioners unanimously agreed to a settlement proposal.

"We think it is a friendly and professional approach to resolving this controversy," attorney Erik Herrin told commissioners during the meeting.

We found out the settlement requires Johnson City to pay $910,000 for U-Haul's property if the business relocates in the city. Otherwise, Johnson City pays just $820,000, and the business would relocate outside corporate limits.

But the hope is the city pays the extra cash to keep their business.

"We want them as citizens. We want to treat them as we would any other citizens and get them to stay with us," Herrin said.

There's also hope flooding frustration will soon become a thing of the past.

"Downtown Johnson City is a beautiful place, and it's been neglected way too long," said Shell.

More facts we uncovered:

Settlements would require the city receives the property by April 1, 2014, but U-Haul could stay on that property for $10,000 a month until the end of that year.