Some J.C. commissioners don’t see need to reconsider zoning for Gray methadone clinic

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL)- Some Johnson City commissioners do not see a need to reconsider the zoning that will allow an opioid treatment center to open in Gray despite a request to do so.

On Tuesday, The non-profit organization “Citizens to Maintain Gray” requested for city commissioners to take a second look at the zoning for the site in Gray Commons Professional Park. Last year, the commission approved a rezoning request so East Tennessee State University and Mountain States Health Alliance could open a treatment center that would prescribe methadone to its addiction patients. The two entities are moving forward with plans to open the clinic this year.

“Citizens to Maintain Gray” wants the zoning reconsidered after the commission recently denied a controversial annexation for a piece of property on Huffine Road. A public housing complex is being proposed on the site.

In a letter to commissioners, the group said, “We found it encouraging the Commission unanimously supported your city residents by not approving this request… Many of those issues were with the last Commission and again, we are pleased the current Commission seems willing to listen to the wishes of those living close to proposed unwanted businesses and activities…we respectfully request the current Johnson City commission reconsider the MS-1 zoning on property in the Gray Commons along state Highway 75.”

“We want the same treatment,” said Danny Sells who is a member of the non-profit group. “With the unanimous vote to not approve that annexation, yes they clearly listened to the 200 people that the press indicated were at that meeting.”

“I’m certainly supportive of them asking,” said Commissioner Ralph Van Brocklin. He said with two new commissioners on the board the request is logical and he appreciates the continued concern from the Gray community on the issue. However, Van Brocklin said he does not think the issue needs to be reexamined because there are “distinctive differences” between the two issues.

“I saw things with the Huffine Road that really raised flags to me that did not raise flags to me in Gray,” Van Brocklin said. “I felt that the city investment was going to be tremendous to try to improve the roads, to put in sidewalks, to make that a safe place for this particular development [Huffine Road].” Commissioner Van Brocklin also said he is concerned about a potential lawsuit should the city rezone the Gray site after Mountain States and ETSU received state approval for its clinic because it could call the entities’ Certificate of Need into question.

“Taking that issue up again really doesn’t seem like a productive or helpful exercise,” said new commissioner Joe Wise. He also said an annexation and rezoning requests are two different issues and the only parallel he sees between the two issues in question is level of community interest they received.

Sells said the most important thing is for the commission to discuss the possibility. “We don’t think that they would immediately come back and do another vote but maybe have a discussion with the commission on whether or not they ought to.”

Johnson City Mayor David Tomita said the full commission will discuss the request at its agenda meeting on Monday, Aug. 30 at 6 p.m.

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