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Miniature Golf Course Project In Tusculum Moves Forward

Several details need to be worked out, but an 18-hole miniature golf course at 4555 E. Andrew Johnson Highway moved closer to reality Tuesday night at the Tusculum Planning Commission meeting.

Approval was tabled until a called meeting Oct. 17 so several issues can be resolved.

An existing driveway that would provide access to the business near Route 107 must still receive approval from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, and combining two separate parcels on the property needs planning commission approval for a replat to make it a single tract.

The planning commission will review a redrawn site plan reflecting the replat request at the Oct. 17 meeting.

The planning commission reviewed a site plan drawing for the as-yet unnamed miniature golf course presented by property owners Thomas and Sherie Zilz Everhart. They want to begin landscaping work this month, with a planned opening date set for spring 2020.

The golf course, which will include a concession building with rest rooms that will sell tickets and snacks, would be located on about six-tenths of an acre of land off East Andrew Johnson Highway near Route 107.

The miniature golf course layout will be “very attractive” and fit in well wth the surrounding community, Thomas Everhart told planning commission members. It will include a pedestrian bridge built across Moon Creek and a parking lot for business customers.

Daniel Coffey and Bill Onkst of Azimuth Engineering, the Greeneville company consulting with the Everharts on the project, told planning commission members that a revised site plan will be ready by the Oct. 17 meeting.

The existing driveway to the property, which has a long-standing house and barn on it, will have to be widened and improved to accommodate the business, Onkst said. Coffey said TDOT already has the plans under review.

The Tusculum Planning Commission approved the concept in March. Everhart said Tuesday night that other necessary state and city permits relating to the project have been obtained.

Planners working with the city will review the stormwater drainage plan, redrawn property lines and dimensions of the proposed concession building before the Oct. 17 meeting.

Replatting the two properties, both owned by the Everharts, into one parcel including a parking lot in front of the barn would save time and eliminate the need for approval by the city Zoning Board of Appeals, said Mayor Alan Corley, also a planning commission member.

“We want to begin work this month,” Everhart said after the meeting.

Thomas Everhart said the miniature golf-course will offer families and young people another entertainment option in the community.

“These young kids need a place to go. They need something to do here,” he said.

A plan for a campsite for recreational vehicles was introduced in February in the form of a variance request presented to the planning commission but was withdrawn by the Everharts, who then proposed the miniature golf course.

The property is currently zoned B-2, arterial business district.

Paperwork also must be completed on a 25-foot wide “no man’s land” section of property near the house that remains owned by the heirs of the former owners, Coffey said.


Local_news
Streetscape Work On Depot To Begin Next Spring

Streetscape construction as part of Greeneville’s downtown redevelopment project is slated to begin in early spring.

“We are looking at March for start of construction,” City Administrator Todd Smith said during Monday’s Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen retreat at the Clyde Austin 4-H Education Center.

That construction will be the initial phase of the downtown redevelopment project, which involves improvements to the streetscape on Depot Street from College Street to near the railroad depot just past the Cutler Street intersection.

Smith’s comments about the streetscape project came during a report about accomplishments the town has made in its Vision 2020 strategic plan, which includes a focus on the downtown and taking measures to increase activity and use of the town’s core.

The conceptual plan was unveiled in 2018 with the beginning of design for the first phase beginning later in the year. The preliminary streetscape design was previewed for the public in the spring.

Later phases in the project will include addition of public gathering places including an alley park, the construction of parking garages, the creation of a linear greenway along Richland Creek, sidewalk widening for pedestrian traffic and downtown business use, and recommended low cost, high impact projects to act as catalysts for redevelopment.

“The downtown redevelopment project will make a huge difference for downtown,” Smith said. “When private entities see the public investment that the town is making, it will help attract them to the downtown area to make their own investments.”

FESTIVAL STREETSCAPE PLANNED

This initial phase of the Downtown Redevelopment Project involves enhancing the streetscape along Depot Street from the intersection with College and Cutler streets. A preliminary streetscape design for those blocks was presented to the public last month.

The preliminary design features wider sidewalks and landscaping with a focus on the block of Depot Street between Main and Irish streets as a “festival” location.

The block between Main and Irish streets will feature different paving than the other sections — decorative pavement that will designate it as a place for special events to take place, Smith said.

That block will also have an elevated, 80-foot-wide mid-block pedestrian crossing that could create a natural stage during a festival or event, he said.

According to the design for the initial phase, each block of Depot involved will contain some similar elements, such as trees, lighting and landscaping, as well as distinctly marked pedestrian crossings.

The streetscape design was created by landscape architects with CRJA-IBI Group, working with Vaughn & Melton.

The downtown project is to be financed for 20 years by the town with a debt payment of about $150,000 a year. The town has funds for the initial phase in the current fiscal year budget.

WIFI, VACANT BUILDING DISCUSSION

During the retreat, the board discussed installing WiFi internet connectivity downtown and options the town has regarding vacant buildings.

Smith said that the town is exploring the options involved in installing fiber optic cable to provide internet access in the downtown area as part of the redevelopment project.

“It is a good idea,” he said. “WiFi is an amenity that could attract people downtown.”

As discussion began about vacant buildings downtown, Smith said Greeneville is not unique in facing the challenge of what to do to encourage renovation and return to use of vacant buildings in a downtown area.

Smith asked the aldermen to think about what could be done further by the town to support and encourage private investment downtown.

Building Official Bert Seay told the aldermen there are several vacant buildings downtown that are structurally sound.

When asked about codes that need to be met in renovating a building, Seay said that is determined by what use is proposed. He explained that if a building has been used in the past for a commercial business, for example, there may not need to be many modifications to meet codes.

However, if a person wants to create apartments or condominiums in the upstairs of a building that was previously used as a business, there will be many more codes that will apply and have to be met, he said.

The town’s Building and Planning Department welcomes people to come talk to them about proposed renovations for any building, Seay continued, adding he would encourage people to come prior to finalizing the purchase of a property to find out what codes may need to be met to get a better idea of the expense and effort that will be needed during a renovation phase.


Ap_national_news
White House, Dems Fight Over Impeachment Rules

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Constitution gives the House “the sole power of impeachment” — but it confers that authority without an instruction manual.

Now comes the battle royal over exactly what it means.

In vowing to halt all cooperation with House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, the White House on Tuesday labeled the investigation “illegitimate” based on its own reading of the Constitution’s vague language.

In an eight-page letter, White House counsel Pat Cipollone pointed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s failure to call for an official vote to proceed with the inquiry as grounds to claim the process a farce.

“You have designed and implemented your inquiry in a manner that violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process,” Cipollone wrote.

But Douglas Letter, a lawyer for the House Judiciary Committee, told a federal judge Tuesday that it’s clear the House “sets its own rules” on how the impeachment process will play out.

The White House document lacked much in the way of legal arguments, seemingly citing cable TV news appearances as often as case law. And legal experts cast doubt upon its effectiveness.

“I think the goal of this letter is to further inflame the president’s supporters and attempt to delegitimize the process in the eyes of his supporters,” said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas.

Courts have been historically hesitant to step in as referee for congressional oversight and impeachment. In 1993, the Supreme Court held that impeachment was an issue for the Congress and not the courts.

In that case, Walter Nixon, a federal district judge who was removed from office, sought to be reinstated and argued that the full Senate, instead of a committee that was established to hear testimony and collect evidence, should have heard the evidence against him.

The court unanimously rejected the challenge, finding impeachment is a function of the legislature that the court had no authority over.

As for the current challenge to impeachment, Vladeck said the White House letter “does not strike me as an effort to provide sober legal analysis.”

Gregg Nunziata, a Philadelphia attorney who previously served as general counsel and policy adviser to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, said the White House’s letter did not appear to be written in a “traditional good-faith back and forth between the legislative and executive branches.”

He called it a “direct assault on the very legitimacy of Congress’ oversight power.”

“The Founders very deliberately chose to put the impeachment power in a political branch rather the Supreme Court,” Nunziata told The Associated Press. “They wanted this to be a political process and it is.”

G. Pearson Cross, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said the letter appeared to act as nothing more than an accelerant on a smoldering fire.

“It’s a response that seems to welcome a constitutional crisis rather than defusing one or pointing toward some strategy that would deescalate the situation,” Cross said.

After two weeks of a listless and unfocused response to the impeachment probe, the White House letter amounted to a declaration of war.

It’s a strategy that risks further provoking Democrats in the impeachment probe, setting up court challenges and the potential for lawmakers to draw up an article of impeachment accusing President Donald Trump of obstructing their investigations.

Democrats have said that if the White House does not provide the information, they could write an article of impeachment on obstruction of justice.

It is unclear if Democrats would wade into a lengthy legal fight with the administration over documents and testimony or if they would just move straight to considering articles of impeachment.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who is leading the Ukraine probe, has said Democrats will “have to decide whether to litigate, or how to litigate.”

But they don’t want the fight to drag on for months, as he said the Trump administration seems to want to do.

A federal judge heard arguments Tuesday on whether the House had undertaken a formal impeachment inquiry despite not having taken an official vote and whether it can be characterized, under the law, as a “judicial proceeding.”

The distinction matters because while grand jury testimony is ordinarily secret, one exception authorizes a judge to disclose it in connection with a judicial proceeding. House Democrats are seeking grand jury testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation as they conduct the impeachment inquiry.


Local_news
Indivisible Greene County Rallies In Support Of Impeachment Investigation

Members of Indivisible Greene County gathered at the Courthouse Annex Tuesday morning in a rally to support of oversight investigations into possible misconduct by President Donald Trump.

Following the rally, Indivisible Greene County members met with Daryl Brady, a field representative for Congressman Phil Roe, R-1st, of Johnson City, to ask that the congressman support the ongoing series of House investigations into the president and his administration’s alleged actions.

Democrats in the House are investigating the president’s conduct regarding a conversation Trump had in the summer with the president of Ukraine. During that conversation Trump asked the Ukrainian leader to investigate dealings of political opponent Joe Biden and his son in that country. There have also been allegations of obstruction of justice in efforts to cover up details surrounding the conversation.

“President Trump and his administration are obstructing Congress’ efforts to conduct oversight, as is its charge by the Constitution,” said Indivisible Greene County leadership member Art Gillen.

“In over 20 separate investigations, they have blocked requests for testimony, documents and other materials that could help shed light into their intentions and actions, and the following of protocols for managing and storing records,” Gillen continued. “This goes well beyond ‘executive privilege’ and into the realm of outright disregard for the checks and balances that define our government.”

Indivisible Greene County member Jim Balderes, who was participating in the rally, said Indivisible groups locally and nationally have made it their priority to hold elected officials at all levels accountable, regardless of party.

The effort on Tuesday was part of the mission as members want to urge the congressman to do his constitutional duty to support the investigation into potential abuse of power and obstruction of justice, Balderes said.

“Every day, I become more and more confident that the entire truth will come out regarding the corruption and abuse of power perpetrated by our president,” he said. “We can all be certain that Congressman Roe and his distinguished colleagues will learn that ignoring such crimes and misdemeanors in the interest of holding onto power at all costs is never the right thing to do — never the patriotic American thing to do.”

In meeting with Roe’s representative, Gillen said Indivisible Greene County members want to remind the congressman of his oath to protect the Constitution and “to that end he must fully support these current inquiries.”

The members submitted questions regarding the investigation, and if they do not receive answers, they will ask for a follow-up meeting, he said.

Those questions included whether Roe is supporter of wanting see any president, regardless of party, held accountable for violations of their oath and the Constitution. If so, the members said they hope Roe would be supportive of investigations to determine if an impeachment inquiry is in order.

The members also shared their stand that no one is above the law, and that what Trump is alleged to have done in the conversation with the Ukranian president is a breach of national security for political and personal gain that merits investigation.

If Congress finds impeachable acts have not been committed, that needs to be shared with the American people to allow the nation to move on, the group shared with Roe’s representative.

However, if the investigation finds wrongdoing, Congress should act quickly to bring impeachment proceedings, the group’s members stated.

In a column published Friday in The Greeneville Sun, Roe stated his opinion that Trump’s telephone conversation with the Ukrainian leader “does not constitute impeachable conduct.”

“This is just another desperate attempt by House Democrats to remove President Trump from office since they couldn’t beat him at the ballot box. Democrat leadership wants the public to believe they are reluctant to begin an impeachment inquiry, but the truth is this is a carefully calculated, political move,” Roe wrote.