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Proposed changes at Persimmon Ridge intersection include signal, gas station

A pair of plans for property near Persimmon Ridge Road could have its intersection with Highway 11-E seeing major changes if approved.
Last month, Town officials moved forward on a contract with the Tennessee Department of Transportation in which TDOT agrees to do $270,000 worth of safety improvements at the intersection of 11-E and Persimmon Ridge Road.
“This is a much-needed project, and as you may know, we are trying to develop an even better plan that will reduce safety issues with Ben Gamble Road and New Hope Road,” a Town report states. “Signalization is part of this project, which is much needed at the intersection.”
Plans are also in the works to align Ben Gamble Road and New Hope Road with Persimmon Ridge to help with safety issues.
Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe said the Town has had discussions with the people who own property around the intersection about how their land will be affected.
The Town will most likely have to purchase the triangular piece of land at the corner of Ben Gamble, which officials have discussedwith the owner, Wolfe said.
On the other side of the intersection, at the northeast corner of New Hope Road and 11-E, is a piece of property that could also see changes if proposed plans for it move forward.
A convenience store and service station is proposed for the southwest corner of that lot. But first, the applicants – John Molder and Sonja Bailey – must get a permit from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation because putting a service station in the area, which is 0.094 acre, would require the relocation of a small tributary of Little Limestone Creek, a move which some Jonesborough residents are protesting.
“It is indeed a very small stream. I’ve walked it several times,” said local environmentalist Frances Lamberts. “It’s tiny and there is not year-round flow. Part of the channel is interrupted.”
But the issue, Lamberts said, is not the size of the stream, but its job in a larger water system.
“It contributes to a whole stream development there,” she said. “It’s part of the headwater of streams that confluence later, and it brings much-needed clean water to Little Limestone Creek, which has already had its burden of pollution.”
The TDEC document announcing a Jan. 7 public hearing on the permit describes “two unnamed tributaries,” and the one to be moved as “the westerly stream” with “little flow in a fairly straight channel with essentially no canopy.”
Of the westerly stream, 245 of its existing 285 feet would be moved into a new 310 feet of “meandering channel,” the TDEC document states.
Molder said he can’t really comment on the matter at hand, adding that the decision is in the state’s hands.
“We’re not moving a stream,” he said. “All it is, is runoff from a stream…People have misunderstood and thought it was a stream. We are relocating runoff.”
Wolfe noted that he and Town officials have seen no plans for any gas station, but he is aware there has been a request to alter part of the stream that runs through the property off Persimmon Ridge.
Whether to grant the property owners permission to alter the tributary’s path is a TDEC matter, and no part of that decision belongs to the Town, Wolfe said.
“At this point, until someone files a formal request with the Town, it’s not a matter we’re addressing,” Wolfe said.
The main impact may not necessarily come from the re-routing or re-engineering of the stream, but from covering up and putting asphalt over the 0.094 acre of wetland, Lamberts said.
She noted that from Headtown Road to Persimmon Ridge Road, approximately a 3.2 mile-stretch, there are seven gas stations, which equates to one every 80 yards.
Lamberts reiterated that the Town should have some say in what develops at that intersection.
“Fifty yards away, there are six acres ready to be developed,” she said. “If the Town could mediate, there must be some way to move the gas station across the road without an impact on the developer.”
It doesn’t look like the convenience store lot would be affected by any traffic signalization; in fact, the signal may make it easier and safer for traffic to get to the proposed gas station and convenience store.
“We have an obligation to look out for the safety and welfare of the people of Jonesborough,” Wolfe said. “Once plans are presented, which they have not been yet, we would be happy to assess the situation.”

But, to say the Town needs to stop this type of development at this point is “definitely premature,” he added.

“There’s obviously a concern over private property rights and the ability of folks to utilize the property however they want,” he said. “That needs to be kept in mind.”