The Newport City Council meeting Tuesday evening heard a report on plans for the future development of the West Highway 25/70 corridor, from Thinwood Drive west to the Highway 411 interchange.
John Houghton, of Gresham Smith Consultants, has been working with Newport and Tennessee Department of Transportation officials on draft recommendations.
With plans for modifications to the I-40 Exit 432, a Love’s Travel Center near the interstate and plans for a Newport bypass connecting to the corridor, state and local officials are looking to formulate future growth.
Houghton said community input focused on the development of a greenway and the need to preserve existing residential communities. He said the state and city can put in regulations and policies “to encourage future development to encourage people to do what you would like to see happen.”
He called on the city to tweak its current zoning to allow for more development. Houghton suggested parallel roads by built along the corridor to reduce the number of intersections and therefore make the roadway safer.
Along the corridor, there are parcels which have been annexed into the city and others that have not.
Houghton called for a corridor management agreement involving the city, county and state.
He said a coordinated approach will save the state money in the long term because it will decrease the need for an additional bypass.
There likely will be a sidewalk on both sides of the corridor.
City Planner Gary Carver said he has already been meeting with the county planning commission to talk about a corridor plan.
City Manager James Finchum said he recently visited Morristown to learn how it has addressed the issue of blighted buildings. He pointed out dilapidated buildings are a major problem in Newport.
He said Morristown has condemned 112 buildings over the last three years.
Finchum called on the council to endorse his plan to facilitate the growth of Newport, by restructuring the planning, building and codes department
“I would like to create a Department of Community Development, patterned after Morristown and I recommend that Gary Carver be named director of the department. He also proposed the employment of a Codes Enforcement Officer.”
Applications will soon be accepted for the position.
The council unanimously approved the recommendation with Vice-Mayor Mike Proffitt adding, “It is difficult to make progress when you are dealing with people who do not have pride in their community.”
County Commissioner Forest Clevenger asked the city to join with the county in funding a contract with Buxton Analytical to recruit retailers to the community.
Alderman Mike Hansel said he believes it is important the two governments work together to progress the community.
Alderman Louanna Ottinger recognized the Newport School Board, which recently was named a Board of Distinction.
Finchum said the city will be observing Back the Blue on Aug. 26, applauding the work that law enforcement does in the community.
He also said the city has received another state grant to allow work on the Riverwalk to continue. He applauded Carver who said is responsible for a number grants for the city.
“He is saving the taxpayers a lot of money,” the city manager said of Carver.
The state comptroller has approved the new city budget and Proffitt expressed his appreciation to Finance Manager Tina Matthews, who he said worked hard to develop the budget.
Carver said work on restoring the former Tanner School is expected to get underway within the next two weeks.
Love Henderson talked to the council about the Work Ethic diploma, which conveys a student’s good work ethic to future employers. She said 180 Cocke County seniors earned that designation last year.
Vickie Wilson said a neighbor has complained about her dogs barking.
She pointed out all her animals are rescue dogs, and she did not know the city has a limit to the number of dogs allowed at one residence.
She asked for a waiver to the law, promising to not replace a dog when it dies.
The council took no action on the request.