The Morristown Regional Planning Commission voted unanimously to rezone an 18.5 acre farm on Thompson Creek Road – just north of the Walmart-dominated Crockett Square development – from intermediate business to high-density residential.

The property could play a pivotal role in the future residential development of Morristown, officials say.

The man behind the proposed annexation is Johnson City developer Mitch Cox, who indicated he wants to build a large apartment and town home development – approximately 240 units – across Highway 25-E from Walters State Community College.

An access-related snag has emerged in plans for that project. The Tennessee Department of Transportation has raised concerns about allowing a left turn out of the proposed development, which would force southbound motorists to drive about a half-mile north before making a U-turn.

Cox is conducting a traffic study on the advisability of allowing left turns, and TDOT indicated it will accept the results of the study, according to Steve Neilson, lead Morristown planner.

If the traffic study shows left turns out of the development are too dangerous, the proposed development will be relocated to the 18.5 acres the planning commission voted to annex on Tuesday. If the traffic study green-lights left turns, the possibility exists that the Johnson City developer could build in both places, according to Neilson.

“If I were a betting man, I would speculate he would do both,” Neilson said this morning.

The traffic study is expected to be complete this month.

The Thompson Creek Road has upsides and downsides, city officials say.

The Highway 25-E property comes with approximately $2 million in land-development costs that would not be associated with the Thompson Creek Road property, according to Neilson. A preliminary site plan shows the Thompson Creek Road could accommodate 50 more units.

On the other hand Highway 25-E property likely would be preferred by renters wanting privacy. The Thompson Creek Road property also comes with access issues. Thompson Creek Road almost certainly would have to be widened to accommodate the additional traffic. It’s unclear where Thompson Creek Road would intersect with East Morris Boulevard.

There is also a 90-degree turn on Thompson Creek Road. The angle could be reduced on land city government already owns.

“We’ve got a developer interested in two pieces of property, and we’ll see where this goes,” Morristown Mayor Gary Chesney said this morning.