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The fracas between Harriman officials and developers of a Hwy. 70 shopping center is causing problems for more than the parties involved.
An adjacent landowner has told city officials that three multi-million-dollar development deals have fallen through in the past few years because the potential businesses are unable to use roads in the Pinnacle Pointe shopping center.
“We lost the medical center. It went to the county. If the road was there, we would have it in the city,” said Harriman council member J.D. Sampson.
“We lost a strip mall,” Sampson added. “I don’t think we should delay. I think we should move forward, myself.”
The city is looking to connect the neighboring properties by the roadways that are part of an ongoing lawsuit between the city of Harriman and developers over whether too much or not enough public money was spent on a controversial project involving private and public works.
A 2007 state audit said the city was owed more than $200,000 for public money spent on the shopping center. Development partners Jerry Duncan and Steve Kirkham, however, maintain that the city in actuality owes them money on the project.
The two have been embroiled in a tug-of-war over the funds that has led to litigation with suits and countersuits filed.
Harriman City Attorney Harold Balcom said he and Harriman Street Superintendent Darrell “Drack” Langley have looked at what would need to be done to extend a roadway to the adjacent property.
Harriman Mayor Chris Mason has a business, Yebo Wireless, in the shopping center.
“If you pull into the drive furthest south (the one that goes to the shops like UPS and my store), you can turn left up a road that would drive you straight into an embankment,” he said in a recent e-mail.
“We want to bulldoze that hill down so it will open access to the other parcel of property,” he said. “The owners of that property said that they have lost a possible investor because that road was blocked.”
One thing that’s been discussed is condemning the embankment that stands in the way. Harriman council member Kenyon Mee recently cast the lone vote against getting a reappraisal toward condemnation.
“It is going to be biting off a little bit more,” said Mee, who said he’s concerned with incurring additional costs in a time that he believes the city needs to tighten the purse strings.
“It is just nickel and dime us to death,” he said.
Harriman leaders are also considering requesting a complete state audit on the development, something city officials at first decided wasn’t needed.
“I didn’t believe that a year ago, but I believe it now,” Balcom said.
Balcom said he thought the state had quoted an audit fee of $10,000, which he said is chump change compared to the millions of dollars concerned in the ongoing litigation.