Vote on General Mills apartment project in Johnson City delayed - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Vote on General Mills apartment project in Johnson City delayed until April

Thursday, Evolve Development LLC gave the City a revised development agreement aimed at addressing concerns. Thursday, Evolve Development LLC gave the City a revised development agreement aimed at addressing concerns.
JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) - A final vote on the General Mills redevelopment project in downtown Johnson City has been delayed until April.

An attorney for Evolve Development wants to attach a concept plan to the development agreement.  According to the city, this means the vote must wait until the Board of Zoning Appeals  meeting on April 1st.

Evolve Development based in Asheville, NC has a contract to purchase the old General Mills property from the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce and build what it calls "luxury apartments."

Some nearby business and home owners have opposed the plan.

The City agreed to the delay, so the vote was removed from the agenda for the Thursday night meeting.

Below are earlier reports on the General Mills redevelopment project.




As a big vote nears on a controversial downtown Johnson City redevelopment project, there is more proof today of just how anxious the developer is to make the deal work.

Evolve Development based in Asheville has a contract to purchase the old General Mills property from the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce and build what it calls "luxury apartments".

But some nearby residents and business owners oppose the apartment plan for various reason.   Some broadly questioned the wisdom of building residential - not commercial -  structures in a key corridor for Johnson City linking ETSU and the historic downtown.   Other's specifically questioned the true "luxury" nature of the apartments citing the developer's "rent by the room" plan and a lack of assurance about the quality of building materials used.

Last Thursday, we reported that, after hearing local concerns, Evolve submitted a revised development agreement with the new promise to cover at least 85 % of the apartments exteriors with brick, an effort to make good on the luxury apartment promise according to the developer's Johnson City attorney. 

Now we've learned that later that same day, Evolve submitted another revised development agreement which increased the promise to 100% brick.   Tom McKee, attorney for Evolve, said "based on input we have received, we felt like we should make the change."

The guarantee to use brick will increase the expense of the project, McKee said.

Here's the revised wording:

"The Developer shall develop the Property in compliance with all federal, state, and local laws, ordinances, and regulations. The Developer further agrees that all exterior elevations of buildings visible from public roads will be 100% brick and will be similar in appearance to Exhibit “A” hereto.  However, breezeways, hallways, stairwells, elevators and any other improvements constructed upon the Property for the use and operation of the Property shall not be considered “exterior elevations of buildings” and are expressly excluded"

The Johnson City Board of Commissioners is set to have a third and final reading and vote on the developer's rezoning request this Thursday night.

Below is an earlier version of the story:


PREVIOUS STORY: 

Next Thursday night, Johnson City Commissioners will cast a critical vote on a controversial project to redevelop the abandoned General Mills property into an apartment complex.

Asheville-based Evolve Development LLC wants to build what it calls "luxury" apartments where the General Mills building and a nearby farm supply business stand between Walnut Street and State of Franklin Road.   Evolve has a contract to purchase the property from the Washington County Johnson City Chamber of Commerce, the owner of the site, for an undisclosed amount of money.

But for the current plan to work, the Johnson City Commission first must approve a change in zoning for the land.

Some nearby residents and business owners have complained about the project saying it's nothing but "student housing," a claim the developer continues to deny.

Thursday, Evolve Development LLC gave the City a revised development agreement aimed at addressing concerns.

News Channel 11 obtained a copy of the agreement.   It promises Evolve will use brick on at least 85% of the exterior of the structure.    Evolve Development attorney Tom McKee said the commitment to use more top rate building materials is more proof the apartment complex, if built, will not be student housing.  No units will be bigger than three bedrooms, and rent for a three-bedroom unit will be $1675, McKee said.

"In my opinion, this is great because it provides so many additional people in the downtown area to help support all the recent and future growth," said McKee, a former Johnson City Commissioner.

The Johnson City Commission is set to vote on a third and final reading of a rezoning ordinance on March 20th.   The regularly scheduled meeting is set to start at 6 p.m..

Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin has recently indicated he's unsure if he'll support the project on the final vote.  "There are still things in the works, in the background that it's important for me not to commit one way or the other and we're trying to work through some issues right now," Van Brocklin said Thursday.

Here's a previous report on this story.

If the rezoning is approved, the project will go before the Board of Zoning Appeals on April 1 at 6 p.m. related to a variance request.   "The successful passage of the ordinance and approval of the variance will allow closing on the General Mills property to occur within 30 days," according to an emailed update to Chamber of Commerce members Thursday.

Copyright 2014 WJHL.  All rights reserved.








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