Kingston votes for zoning change

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By Mike Gibson

A nearly full house showed to see Kingston City Council vote on a proposed rezoning that would enable a planned car dealership and retail development off North Kentucky Street.

Most of the audience went home with the same concerns they brought into the council room, as council voted 7-0 to approve the rezoning on first reading.

The rezoning concerns a 47-acre parcel near Davis and Dogwood drives in Kingston. Jerry Duncan Ford is planning a move from its current Harriman location to be closer to the interstate.

Preliminary plans presented by developer Steve Kirkham also called for a big-box retail on the property. The change would rate the land as a C-4 “controlled commercial district” rather than R-1 residential.

Many residents of the adjacent streets came to the council’s July work session to ask council members to slow down on the proposal.

Many of the same residents — plus a few more — showed this week to reiterate their concerns. Residents have complained that Kirkham’s plans would create noise and traffic issues, as well as disrupt the character of the neighborhood.

“I’m violently opposed to this,” said area resident Browder Williams. “It’s personal to me, because it’s my home.”

Several residents, including Roane State professor Bob Thomas, suggested that while the development could be built in a way that would make both residents and businesses happy, the plans needed more work before getting the apparent green light of a rezoning.

“There is no bird in hand,” Thomas said of the proposed project, which he said had not been OK’d by either Tennessee Department of Transportation or by Ford Motor Co.

“It would quickly turn into a pig in a poke.”

But though council voted for the rezoning unanimously on the first reading, some members showed some unease about the proposal. “I’m struggling with this one,” said Council member Teresa Nichols. “I want development here, and I don’t want to raise taxes… But I feel like I’m rushed on this one. I’m struggling.”

Councilman John Byrkit stressed that this was only a first reading, and that even if the rezoning passes, there is still a lengthy vetting process for any proposed construction. “Any buildings that come from this will be coming back to the planning commission, and to council,” he said.

Councilman Tony Brown suggested that the plans Kirkham had presented may have been unveiled prematurely and that council’s job at present is to consider the rezoning, and not the substance of the plans themselves. “I’m voting ‘yes’ tonight,” he added. “I don’t know that I’m voting ‘yes’ on the second reading.”