The One Kingsport initiative is a five-year road map for the Model City, born out of a two-day summit held last fall. More than 240 volunteers worked for months brainstorming and refining “big ideas,” policy changes and capital projects to recommend to the BMA to help move the city forward.
Volunteers crafted a five-year plan with more than 100 ideas on how to improve the Model City. From there, a 14-member prioritization team created a year one priority list consisting of around 60 projects from the seven focus areas, mostly “quick hit” or low-cost items.
The commission met three times during the past month, reviewing this priority list, and when all was said and done, the final recommendations looked fairly close to the initial draft presented to them at the first meeting.
The draft list included projects requiring funds and others that could be implemented at no cost. The initial list had an estimated cost of $951,000. The final list came in at $958,000.
Commissioners removed the streetscape master plan ($100,000) from the initial list and added Riverfront redevelopment ($10,000) and planning for a product creation center ($83,000). A few unfunded items were pushed out to later years and a couple for further study.
One of the largest projects on the list is for the creation of outdoor venue space. City leaders are looking at a piece of the old General Shale property off Industry Drive, across from the recently built Brickyard Park.
According to the recommended list, the estimated cost of land for the outdoor venue would be $1.4 million with the yearly payment being $98,500. This would be bonded money. On the cash side, $50,000 has been earmarked on the list to hire a consultant to perform an environmental review on the property.
Development Services Director Lynn Tully told commissioners the year one money would be to put an option on the property and that the cost of construction would be in addition to the price of the land.
Earlier this year, the BMA agreed to pitch in $3 million to the Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority to redevelop the Lee Apartments site and renovate its existing public housing stock. Though not every member of the BMA agrees, the funds are coming out of One Kingsport money, $224,672 in the first year.
The third large dollar item earmarked for the first year is $215,000 to expand the city's material agreement to include partial reimbursements for roads, sidewalks and stormwater infrastructure.
“We need new housing, and we're not getting as many as our sister cities,” Tully said. The money earmarked for the expanded materials agreement would likely be enough for two to three developments, she said.
“In the battle for housing in the Tri-Cities, we're losing,” said Commissioner Lafe Cook.
Commissioner Seth Jervis, a realtor in Kingsport, said existing inventory in Kingsport is on par with Johnson City. However, new construction is triple in Johnson City as compared to the Model City, he said.
A proposed builder's fee reduction program, estimated at $100,000, could not fit into the first year budget and has been pushed out to years two through five.
Other projects on the list for funding in the first year include a public mural program ($10,000), a master plan for the academic village ($25,000), a downtown master plan ($85,000), incentives for new downtown retail and restaurants ($40,000), improved greenspace downtown ($30,000), tactical urbanism ($10,000), a Bays Mountain Park master plan ($35,000), a facility plan for the Lynn View Community Center ($25,000) and the creation of an economic development portal ($10,000).
Some commissioners struggled with the number of plans on the proposed list, with Commissioner Charlie Nitschke suggesting volunteers or adjunct help could work on some of the master plans. Other commissioners questioned whether Kingsport could hire temporary personnel to perform the planning work, rather than using an outside source, in an effort to help save money.
The commission agreed as part of its first year recommendation to ask the BMA to consider adding personnel to help save on consulting fees. The money for the additional personnel would come from the recommended first year budget and would not be an increase over the total.