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City says “no thanks” to park site

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

City officials have been discussing a possible land donation from Dr. Joe Ray for months. In the most recent council meeting, the aldermen let the tabled issue die when no one made a motion in its favor. Officials spoke to Ray earlier that day in an open work session via Zoom.

The proposed donation involved slightly below four acres of land east of North Shady Street (Parcel 2203 on Tax Map 41) that Ray agreed to donate under a list of around ten stipulations, with one of those being that it becomes a park. It is currently zoned as residential (R-1), which would cause some delays if the project had moved forward.

The city’s concern seemed to focus on Ray’s stipulations. Several aldermen pointed out that this land is not free like it appears. The city would be forced to pay for everything involved to build the park, including cutting excess trees, adding appropriate equipment like benches, adding mulch, developing a parking lot, and purchasing a sign. Before any of that could happen, the stipulations state that the city would have to pay for an appraisal, all of this year’s taxes, all of the closing costs (including Ray’s share), and all surveys needed. City Mayor Jerry Jordan pointed out that it would take approximately $4,000 to even get the process started.

“I would love to accept this gift, but you guys have to think,” said Alderman Bud Crosswhite before naming city properties in need of repairs. “We can’t maintain what we’ve already got. We need to repair what we have first.”

Aldermen Keeble and Shearin agreed that the city needs to take care of its current properties before starting a new project. Additionally, Keeble pointed out that the city does not have enough labor to take care of the project.

“We’re having to use our men in the summertime just to maintain the mowing,” Crosswhite agreed, adding. “That’s a good point. I hadn’t thought about that.”

The Tomahawk reached out to Ray before publication. He said the city had not gotten back with him on a decision, but he had thought this was the way it was going to go. Three of the members opposed it, and “they all kept looking for reasons not to take it.” Ray has decided to put the property up for sale, advertising it in The Tomahawk.

Both the Mountain City Council meeting and work session recordings are available online. Anyone interested in hearing the playbacks can visit the city website, mountaincitytn.org.