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Lake right-of-way issue tabled; subdivision plat approved

By Jonathan Pleasant
After several months of inactivity due to lack of business, the Johnson County Regional Planning Commission met last week in the upper courtroom of the Johnson County Courthouse. Several members of the committee were absent, but with four of the seven present there were enough for Chairman Odell Johnson to declare a quorum and conduct the meeting.
The first order of business was to introduce the county’s new planner from the First Tennessee Development District. Replacing Cherith Marshall who moved to a new position in Bristol, VA, Rebecca Ketchie will be adding Johnson County to the short list of counties and municipalities she serves. A licensed attorney in the state of Tennessee with a strong legal background in addition to her time as a planner in the Midwest, Ketchie was excited to officially meet Johnson County’s planning commissioners for the first time.
Addressing one of the first items on the agenda, Ketchie was also given the opportunity to meet Road Superintendent Tony Jennings as she visited the Laurelwood Subdivision with him earlier in the day. Surveyor Todd Grayson was present to make the formal request to approve the final plat for the second phase of the development. Having recently paved the access road for the subdivision, which has access from the new Highway 91 bypass, Grayson was eager to bring the final plat before the commission for their review.
Road Superintendent Jennings informed the board that when the paving had been done it had not followed the guidelines set out in the planning commission’s subdivision regulations. Ideally Jennings was supposed to be contacted throughout the road’s construction to give him the opportunity to inspect its progress and verify that it was being done correctly. Because the new road will potentially become a part of the county road system, ensuring that the project is up to county standards is an essential part of the approval process.
While Grayson did confirm that the paving was done without contacting the highway department, he also informed the commission that Maymead, who owns Laurelwood, was willing to grant a three-year warranty on the project or meet whatever guidelines Jennings felt was necessary. Discussing the issue, members of the commission asked Jennings if there would be any verifiable way to ensure the work was done right. Jennings stated that the only way that he would know for sure would be to core drill the road to see exactly how thick the pavement was and what it consisted of.
Agreeing to do the core drilling following state guidelines, Grayson felt that Maymead would not have a problem with the request, acknowledging that the three-year warranty would be reduced to one year. Jennings stated that he felt the one-year warranty would be sufficient depending on a positive outcome from the core drilling. A few other small requirements were also addressed including the placement of road signage, but pending these improvements and the recommendation of the County Road Superintendent, Commissioner Jonathan Pleasant made the motion to approve the plat, which was accepted unanimously.
The only other issue on the agenda was a right-of-way discussion concerning a piece of property on Lake View Drive in Butler. Originally appearing before the commission back in October of last year, property owner Jay Peterson and lessee Tim Peresada made their third appearance before the Planning Commission this month but came no closer to resolving their problem.
Hoping to build a house on one of Peterson’s three adjacent lots on Watauga Lake, Peresada discovered, following a survey, that the entire piece of property was covered by a 100 foot right-of-way that extends all the way into the lake. Originally given over to the county in the late 1940s by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) as they constructed the new road, rights-of-way up and down this stretch of highway widen and narrow inconsistently, ranging from under 25 feet from the center line at one point to over 100 feet at another.
When the TVA gave over control of the land there was little expectation that it would ever be developed, but as lake front property has only increased in popularity and desirability the county has had varied experience in dealing with the right-of-way issue. Typically the land owner has swapped land with the county on the adjacent side of the road, but with an additional 75 foot right-of-way already present, Peresada has been left with few options.
The first time that Peresada made an appearance before the Planning Commission to request a variance in the right-of-way so that he could build his home, Road Superintendent Tony Jennings was not present to provide his recommendation and the issue was ultimately denied at the next month’s meeting. Other concerns about the property came to the front, including a debate about whether there was even enough land to build a house between the TVA’s required 1980 elevation mark and a proposed 25 foot right-of-way reduction.
Returning this month with Carter County Surveyor Steve Pierce, Peresada also produced plans for the house he intends to build, including a retaining wall, and a certified survey that shows there would be suitable room to build if the right-of-way request was granted. Remaining in the audience, Surveyor Todd Grayson got into a heated argument with Pierce over exactly what type of right-of-way was present on the property and whether or not the planning commission has authority to grant such a variance.
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.