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Grants, new housing project approved

By Jill Penley

Possible developments and expansions were unveiled during Thursday evening’s meeting of the Johnson County Board of Commissioners including a proposed 40-unit apartment complex to be constructed on property owned by the county along State Highway 67 near the industrial park and a possible $1 million grant to benefit the Doe Mountain Recreational Area.
“With the board’s approval we are excited to complete the property sale and announce a new apartment complex that will cost approximately $10 million will be built in Johnson County,” said county mayor Mike Taylor. Barry Accountius, vice president of development for Woda Cooper Companies, was in attendance to answer any questions. According to the company website, Woda Management, and Real Estate LLC manages and maintains over 300 properties and Woda Cooper Companies, Inc. has created over 12,000 housing units in rural, suburban and urban settings across 15 states in the past 29 years. “Woda Cooper Companies, Inc. continuously researches and evaluates new markets,” said Accountius, “to help ensure the availability of newly constructed, or renovated, affordable housing units for families and seniors.”
According to Tate Davis, Doe Mountain Recreational Authority (DMRA) Executive Director the primary goal of grant funding would be to improve Doe Mountain by adding restrooms, providing more viewing platforms, expanding trails, creating additional parking and adding other amenities.
“Already Doe Mountain has demonstrated consistent increases in visitors,” said Davis. “Some drive for hours to explore our trail system.” Over the past two years, Doe Mountain has steadily drawn more out of state visitors, particularly from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.
As visits have increased, so have business opportunities. “In 2017, Appalachians Outdoor Adventures (AOA) began offering guided ATV and horseback experiences at Doe Mountain,” explained Davis, who advises in 2018, AOA began relocating to Johnson County and has since doubled the number of ATVs available for touring.
“In mid-2018, Dean Kirby’s ATV Rentals started operating in the area and now offers delivery of rental ATVs and Side by Sides directly to the trailhead at Harbin Hill,” he said.
With the potential for an additional $1 million to continue developing Doe Mountain, the board of directors expects to see the expansion of more adventure tourism
businesses and additional start-up businesses relating to Doe Mountain and the continued influx of tourists, who patron existing local businesses.
DMRA will bring its request for match funding to the Town of Mountain City in May. The next steps would be completing the grant application process, finalizing the project cost and obtaining approval from the funding agency for specific improvements to be added to the property.
The board approved two additional grants including the Property Evaluation Program, or PEP, a grant which will allow a professional company to come in and evaluate potential properties, advising counties on where investment may be most beneficial and how sites can be improved to attract prospective companies. Started in 2015, PEP is designed to enhance the inventory of industrial sites and buildings in Tennessee. “PEP helps local communities attract and grow businesses in Tennessee and creates high-quality jobs in the process,” said Governor Bill Lee. “Thanks to PEP, we’re identifying even more opportunities for Tennesseans to both build a career and build up local economies in our state.”
Approval was also granted for the mayor to accept a $20,000 grant to improve physical activities and will be administered by the Johnson County Health Department. “It looks as if this grant will fund the upgrade and renovations of the restrooms at the Mountain City Municipal pool,” explained Mayor
Taylor, who explains the city is expected to furnish the labor. “We’re hoping there will also be ample funds to purchase some new playground equipment for Cunningham Park.”