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County to continue requesting recommendations on rezoning requests

Despite a suggestion to change the process, Washington County will continue to ask the First Tennessee Development District to provide recommendations on rezoning requests.
During the October meeting of the Zoning Administrator’s Oversight Committee, Mayor Dan Eldridge said an issue had come up during the last several months that needed to be addressed.
Chris Craig, FTDD assistant executive director, told members the concerns relate to recommendations from the county planning commission regarding areas that are in the City of Johnson City planning district.
“There is some confusion in Ross Phillips making recommendations on behalf of Johnson City or Jonesborough because they have their own planning commissions,” Craig said, adding FTDD only represents the Washington County Regional Planning Commission. “Even if it is outside the city limits, it (could still be) in the Johnson City planning region.”
Phillips is a community planner employed by FTDD who serves the county on a contract basis.
Craig referred to the rezoning request on Old Stage Road for which Phillips wrote a favorable opinion in August, but both the Johnson City Regional Planning Commission and the county commission denied.
“What doesn’t make sense to me is that Ross would be asked to write recommendations for requests in the Johnson City planning district,” Eldridge said to then-Zoning Administrator Mike Rutherford.
Commissioner Tom Krieger agreed. “Mike, I’m not grasping why your department would need to be involved.”
Rutherford said his office has to assemble the commission packet, but committee members suggested the city staff write recommendations for all requests within their planning district.
Commissioner Joe Wise moved to table the issue. “I don’t want to make a recommendation with one of the parties not at the table,” he said.
Wise shared his communications with Phillips and Johnson City Senior Planner Angela Charles during the Nov. 12 meeting.
“The change in policy appears to have been initiated by the First Tennessee Development District,” he said.
A memorandum from Phillips states, “Ideally, a single staff rezoning recommendation should be made by a regional planning commission’s staff for rezoning requests within its planning region but outside of its corporate limits. Then a single recommendation from that planning commission should go to the legislative body.”
Wise, a member of the city’s planning commission, said the city staff is reticent to take on planning recommendations for the unincorporated parts of Washington County because the guidelines are different. “I think we need (FTDD) to continue to provide an opinion,” he said.
Commissioner Joe Grandy agreed the quality of advice that comes to the county commission is valuable. “Most of the 25 members have never dealt with zoning, and having a professional planner in the mix is very helpful.”
Rutherford said FTDD owes the recommendations to the county as part of the contract.
Grandy made a motion to continue requesting recommendations from FTDD for all rezoning requests submitted to the county.
Commissioner Skip Oldham seconded the motion, which passed with unanimous approval.