Proposed train-cleaning facility over first hurdle

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By The Staff



Harriman City Council approved the first reading last week of an ordinance changing the Harriman Coal Terminal property from open space to heavy industrial.

A public hearing on the ordinance preceded the meeting.

The request came from Brian Cook, who hopes to use part of the property along the railroad tracks for a railroad-car cleaning facility.

Harriman building inspector Maria Nelson said Cook would still need to get approval of building permits for his proposed future development.

“Whenever you have change of use, you still need a building permit,” Nelson said.

Councilman Mark Powers was the only member to vote against the ordinance, while Councilman Lonnie Wright passed.

“I’m concerned about rezoning this parcel to heavy industrial,” Powers said.

One of his concerns was the possibility that it would open up something else to go at the property if plans for the cleaning facility fall through.

If another possible industry meets the definition of I-2 Heavy Industrial, the city may not be able to deny a building permit if it meets all the requirements, Powers said.

Powers said he is also concerned about the level of commitment Cook may have received from Norfolk Southern to do business with him.

Gene Lackey, an area surveyor assisting Cook, said that was not a concern. He said he has commitments from Norfolk Southern, although not from the Knoxville office.

“He’s (Cook) spent quite a bit of his personal money. Mr. Cook would not do this if he did not have good faith,” Lackey said.

Officials asked if the zoning allows any hazardous material.

“It doesn’t allow any radioactive waste, that kind of hazardous material,” Nelson replied.

She said she would have to look in more detail at the zoning regulations to see what is prohibited.

Councilman Ken Mynatt said it shouldn’t have any HAZMAT-ranked material, which would require state approval.

Powers said he is also concerned this might impact any future development along the Emory River.

“It might go against what we want to do with that property,” Powers said.

The Harriman Regional Planning Commission recommended the rezoning after Cook presented his request at April’s meeting.

Cook also attended last month’s council workshop to detail his plans to build and use existing facilities along the tracks on what is referred to as the Christmas Lumber spur.

Cook told planners the facility is not a waste disposal site and that waste would be taken via truck to area landfills.

The facility would have a water treatment facility itself to separate the material.

Harriman Utility Board engineer James Burnham indicated HUB’s support of the project during the planning commission meeting.

Burnham said the proposed development has potential to produce significant income for the utility.

He also said the company would have a permit to put admissible wastewater into the sewer system and that the level of organic material, or bod5, would actually be good for the treatment plant.