Nave questions Eldridge’s opposition to annexation bills
By Karen Sells
“It has come to my attention that you have made two trips to Nashville to lobby against (annexation) bills,” Nave said to Mayor Dan Eldridge, reminding him of the 19 meetings held last year with Gray residents regarding a possible annexation of their property by the City of Johnson City. “When did this body instruct you to oppose (the bills)?”
Eldridge said he made the trip as an officer of the First Tennessee Development District representing the first district, not as the county mayor.
“I did not go to Nashville with the intent to lobby, but I found some things of concern in the annexation legislation” he said.
The state’s one-size-fits-all solution to annexation is not the answer locally, Eldridge told commissioners.
“The situation we have in Washington County is the result of things that happened 12-13 years ago that we can’t unwind,” he said.
During meetings with Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City), Eldridge proposed including provisions that would provide an incentive for cities and counties to work together to resolve their annexation issues through inter-local agreements to amend the growth plan if a moratorium had to be enacted.
“Before I stand up here and be accused of not taking care of Washington County, I will give you a copy of the letter,” he said.
A copy of the April 5 correspondence to Ramsey was forwarded to commissioners that afternoon.
Nave insisted Eldridge was “standing up there not telling the truth.”
In a later interview, Eldridge said Nave’s comments came completely out of the blue.
“I was shocked that a county commissioner would essentially call me a liar in a public meeting based on third-party information,” he said. “It goes well beyond the limit of what the people of Washington County would expect from one of their representatives.”
A united effort among local leaders will be needed to move forward, according to Eldridge. “My whole objective is a very strong belief that issues in Washington County are unique, and I have the numbers of how Washington County is being impacted by Johnson City,” he said.
Eldridge said he and City Manager Pete Peterson have some specific ideas on what can be done to help some of the annexation issues. “We all live in Washington County, and they need to be our decisions,” Eldridge said.
Before adjourning, the General Assembly passed a bill that places a one-year moratorium on the annexation of any residential property or farmland across the state. If the bill is signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam, Johnson City will be prevented from annexing any land other than by request.
The consequences of doing nothing in the interim are what Eldridge wants to avoid, saying he will continue to work with Peterson on finding a solution that will benefit all sections of the county. “The big picture is what we need to be focused on,” he said.