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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Johnson City officials are preparing for the city to grow in population and geographical size as several developers look to build new homes.
The new developments would push forward the city’s growth and address high demand for housing, but city leaders want to tread carefully to avoid complications with population growth.
City Manager Cathy Ball said enough annexations are in the works to increase the city’s population by as much as 10 percent.
“We have seven in place right now that have come to us and said we want to annex,” Ball said. “If the developments are built out, that would add an additional 5,100 people to the city.”
Johnson City commissioners moved forward with two of those annexation requests at a meeting Thursday night.
On second reading, they approved annexation and an R-4 (Medium Density Residential) re-zoning on a 7.72-acre property near Cherokee Elementary School.
They also initiated the annexation process for what is currently planned as a 58-acre subdivision along Boones Station Road near Boones Creek.
The latter would still require Planning Commission approval after an analysis of the plan of services for the subdivision.
Both will also need three approvals from commissioners to join the city.
Commissioners were set to consider a third annexation request, a subdivision off Carroll Creek Road, but the developer requested it be withdrawn as they were not quite ready to move forward with their plans.
Mayor Joe Wise said the recent shift in the housing market and demand for the region has spurred the developer interests.
“Market forces, population, where people want to be, where people can be now with things like 10 gig internet, have really changed the fundamentals.”
That population increase would mean more revenue for the city, but city services have to be able to handle more people.
“On one hand that’s more revenue for the city, but we have to invest that back into the community to make sure that we can provide services,” Ball said.
The city planning commission analyzes how the city can provide its services like trash, law enforcement, schools and utilities to new developments.
Wise said if the city grows too quickly, the quality of service could decline city-wide.
“You’re potentially delivering utilities. You’re expanding potential school-aged children populations. There’s calls for service from police and fire,” Wise said. “At some point, that growth begins to have consequences across the delivery of services across the entire city.”
Ball said the city also has to consider the feelings of its current residents, and the complications new housing can create for everyone.
She experienced a similar problem during her tenure as assistant city manager in Asheville, North Carolina during its housing boom.
“What I’ve seen happen is an explosion of folks moving into an area without that level of preparedness for it,” Ball said. “It creates a lot of frustration from citizens.”
Wise said the city would take a conservative approach to the annexations. He said it would be handled on a case-by-case basis.
“We look at the consequences of that growth and make a decision based upon each one of those on their merits,” Wise said.
Wise said the city must also consider the affordability of new housing.