The Greeneville Regional Planning Commission on Friday authorized improvements at a local industry and recommended a rezoning proposal for a property on the East Andrew Johnson Highway.
A plot plan for manufacturing yard improvements and an access road at the Miller Industries facility on Campbell Drive was approved. The improvements follow a building expansion at the facility a few years ago,City Planning Director Logan Engle said. Additional grading of a paved area around the expansion and addition of some asphalt will be involved.
In other business, the commission gave a positive recommendation for a proposed rezoning of property along East Andrew Johnson Highway at the intersection of Wagon Wheel Trail.
The property at 7205 E. Andrew Johnson Highway is currently zoned A-1, agricultural, and is proposed to be rezoned to B-2, general business.
While the property is outside Greeneville’s corporate limits, it is within the town’s urban growth boundary, Engle said. Under state law, rezoning proposals or subdivision of properties within a municipality’s urban growth boundary are to be considered for a recommendation from its planning commission.
Property owner Jose Vasquez told the commission he intends to use a rear portion of the property as a place to park his two tractor-trailers when he is not on the road. Vasquez has a small trucking business, and a house sits on the portion of the property fronting East Andrew Johnson Highway. In the future, he said he may build a structure where he can park the trucks to get them out of the weather and perform minor maintenance.
Vasquez said he requested the rezoning to make sure the intended use was proper. “I want things to be done right from the beginning,” he said.
There are other businesses located along East Andrew Johnson Highway in the area, he said. The property is adjacent to a Farm Bureau Insurance office and there are a trailer sales business, a convenience store and storage units within a quarter mile.
Engle said a sign about the proposed rezoning was placed on the property and landowners within 200 feet were sent letters about the rezoning. While there was one call seeking clarification about the rezoning, no one had expressed opposition to it, she said. A neighboring property owner attending the meeting said she wanted to learn the intended use of the property, but did not voice opposition.
With the planning commission recommendation, the rezoning will be considered by the Greene County Commission.
Following some questions following a rezoning request that was made several months ago for property within the town’s urban growth boundary, Engle said a meeting was held between the Greeneville and Greene County planning and building officials to discuss how to avoid any confusion when future rezoning requests were made.
That discussion resulted in an understanding between the officials that any rezoning request within the town’s urban growth boundary will be forwarded directly to the Greene County Commission after being considered by the Greeneville Planning Commission, she said. The request would not have to go through an extra step of consideration by the Greene County Planning Commission.
In other action, the commission approved an amendment to the town’s Zoning Ordinance that deletes two sections related to key lots. The amendments would delete a definition of key lots and remove any reference to the lots in setback regulations. Key lots, which are lots between corner lots and interior lots in a development, are difficult to describe to the general public, property owners and developers and are not mentioned in zoning ordinances for other municipalities in the region, said Alex Moore, an intern in the town’s Planning Office this summer.
Moore is a student at the University of Tennessee.
A Greene County man who caused a 2012 car crash that killed a mother of three was denied post-conviction relief this week by the state Court of Criminal Appeals that could have resulted in a new trial.
The Court of Criminal Appeals at Knoxville affirmed an earlier judgment by Circuit Court Judge Alex E. Pearson stating that Marcus Ward Strong is not entitled to a new trial or any other type of post-conviction relief.
Strong, now 39, formerly of Chuckey Pike, driving a car involved in a crash on July 19, 2012, that killed passenger Kiley Ricker Shelton, 33.
On the eve of Strong’s January 2014 Greene County Criminal Court trial, the repeat DUI offender entered guilty pleas to charges that included aggravated vehicular homicide. He also entered a guilty plea to violation of the Habitual Motor Vehicle Offender law.
Judge John F. Dugger Jr. sentenced him to an effective 20-year prison term at 30% release eligibility on convictions that also included two counts each of criminal conspiracy to introduce drugs into a penal institution and criminal conspiracy to sell or deliver a controlled substance, offenses that happened in the Greene County Detention Center as he awaited trial.
His prison sentence in connection with the death of Shelton was 18 years.
A written decision by Pearson was filed in January 2018 following a post-conviction hearing in December 2017 for Strong, currently serving time in the Northeast Correctional Complex near Mountain City.
In his written decision, Pearson dismisses Strong’s petition for post-conviction relief.
In his petition for post conviction relief filed with the state Court of Criminal Appeals at Knoxville, Strong repeats arguments that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty pleas were “unknowing and involuntary.”
A three-member appellate court panel affirmed Person’s decision in an opinion filed Wednesday.
“We conclude that defense counsel provided effective assistance and that (Strong) knowingly, voluntarily, and understandingly entered his guilty pleas. Accordingly, the judgment of the post-conviction court is affirmed,” Judge Camille R. McMullen wrote on behalf of the appellate panel that reviewed the petition for relief.
Through his post-conviction lawyers, Strong maintained that he received ineffective legal representation from a lawyer he hired and also noted that an expert was not retained to testify to refute a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation lab toxicology report. Strong’s lawyer at the time he entered the 2014 guilty pleas to aggravated vehicular homicide and the other offenses was Curt Collins of Greeneville.
“Considering all the proof that came before the court and the record as a whole, the court finds that there is insufficient proof to grant Mr. Strong any form of post-conviction relief. The court finds that Mr. Collins’ representation of (Strong) fell within the applicable objective standard of reasonableness under prevailing professional norms,” Pearson wrote in his 2018 order.
Collins testified at the December 2017 post-conviction hearing that he acted in his client’s best interest in working out a plea agreement with the District Attorney General’s Office, with Strong’s consent.
“(Collins) believed that (Strong) was likely to be convicted if he went to trial and this court cannot disagree with that conclusion given the excessive speed, the alcohol and the prescription medications all coupled together,” Pearson wrote in the order.
The sentencing range for aggravated vehicular homicide is 15 to 25 years. Appealing a conviction on the basis of ineffective representation of counsel is a common legal tactic.
Senior Assistant District Attorney Cecil Mills Jr. sought to keep Strong’s convictions in place at the December 2017 hearing.
A Tennessee Highway Patrol crash report said that a 1989 Ford Mustang operated by Strong was being driven at an estimated 85 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone in the 6000 block of Chuckey Pike near Williamson Road when it veered off the roadway on a curve. Strong overcorrected and crossed the southbound lane before going off the roadway again and hitting a utility pole, the report said.
The car overturned several times and Shelton was ejected and became entangled in nearby electrical wires. The mother of three young daughters was pronounced dead at the scene.
A toxicologist concluded in a 2013 letter to Mills that the combination of alcohol, Clonazepam, Valium and other drugs in Strong’s system “would have contributed to his misoperation of the vehicle if he was the driver in this fatal crash with Ms. Shelton.”
Strong “was under the influence of alcohol and these drugs at the time of the crash,” a doctor affiliated with the William L. Jenkins Forensic Center in Johnson City wrote.
The state first offered a 25-year plea agreement, then came back with a 22-year sentence offer. By the time an offer was formalized, Collins testified that he felt “very strongly” the plea was in the best interest of his client.
Strong was designated a habitual motor vehicle offender in 2006. Before the wreck, Strong had six previous driving under the influence convictions and was also charged with vehicular homicide, DUI and DUI-7th offense. Those charges were merged into the aggravated vehicular homicide conviction at Strong’s plea hearing in January 2014.
Strong has a parole hearing scheduled for January 2020, according to the Tennessee Department of Correction. His sentence is to end in September 2031.
Skies over the Greeneville Municipal Airport will be full of skydivers on June 28 as Jump TN heads an effort to set a state record.
Jump TN, which is headquartered at the airport, is looking to break the state record for the number of people in a skydiving formation. Starting June 28, attempts will continue throughout the weekend.
The skydiving will begin that morning as two planes will take off from the airport carrying 40 skydivers who will plan to meet in mid-air and link to create a star-pattern formation to break the state record that now stands at 36 people in a single formation.
Jump TN has a two-fold reason to try for the record. “We are always striving to increase the drop zone in Tennessee, and setting a state record fits into that goal,” said Mikeal Stevens, who co-owns the skydiving business with Angie Alley.
In addition to increasing skydiving opportunities and participation in the state, the other reason also provided the number for the formation: Stevens is celebrating his 40th birthday this month.
Setting the record requires more than just having 40 skydivers connected in a formation.
Each of the 40 people participating has a designated spot in the formation that will be submitted to judges. If a person is not in the designated location, even if all 40 skydivers are connected, the jump will not count as a valid attempt at the record, Stevens said.
Two judges from the U.S. Parachute Association will determine if the attempts meet requirements and whether the record has been set. Two videographers will go up with the skydivers to record the jumps, and once they are on the ground, the judges will review their footage to see if it is a valid record attempt, Stevens said.
The skydivers will be going up in two planes that can carry 22 people each. Alley explained that five skydivers will jump initially from one of the planes to form the core star formation and others will follow to connect and expand the formation.
This coordinated and timed effort will be followed by another maneuver requiring as much skill. The skydivers have to give each other enough space to safely open their parachutes as they prepare to land, Alley explained. Skydivers on the outer edges of the formation will break away first followed by the inner groups in timed increments.
With the number involved, the skydivers will be landing in a wider area around the airport than in typical jumps by Jump TN. “We want people to know that a skydiver may end up in their yard, but they won’t hurt anything,” she said. “They will just gather up their equipment and will probably appreciate being able to call for help or given a ride back to the airport.”
Volunteers will be available throughout the weekend to pick up skydivers who may end up away from the runway and taxiway or outside the airport as people try to give each other space or encounter unexpected wind gusts, she said.
Typically, skydivers land in the grassy area in front of the Jump TN hangar at the airport or in the nearby grassy area between the taxiway and runway.
Spectators are welcome to watch the attempts, Alley said. Jump TN will have some observation tents set up at its hangar, and if there are a large number of people, some may also watch the attempts from a seating area at the fixed base operator building at the entrance to the airport.
Setting the record may take several attempts, but if one is set early, there will be an attempt at 42 made. Skydivers are scheduled through June 30.
To participate in the record attempt, skydivers are required by Jump TN to have made at lease 300 jumps.
While about half of the skydivers who are registered to participate are Jump TN regulars, the record-setting effort has also attracted individuals from other states.
A number of skydivers from the Knoxville and Asheville, North Carolina, area will be participating as well as several from other parts of North Carolina, South Carolina, west Tennessee and Virginia, she said.
Several people have registered to serve as back-ups if one of the registered participants is not able to come to Greeneville, Alley said. The extra skydivers for the 42 attempt will come from this number.
Jump TN began working on coordinating the record attempt in February. Steps included hiring an organizer to help instruct the skydivers in how to make the formation and setting up food vendors to provide meals on-site for the jumpers during the weekend. A banquet is planned Saturday evening for the participants, which will be catered by Jill’s Soul Food.
Sponsors are still being accepted for the weekend. Those interested are asked to contact Jump TN at 765-5111.