KIMBALL, Tenn. - Chattanooga developer John "Thunder" Thornton wants to install a water pump station on a piece of city-owned property next to a water tank along Timber Ridge Drive, but city leaders said they don't have enough concrete information to make a decision.
At its recent meeting, the board voted unanimously to table Thornton's request until he provides more detailed information. The pump station would pump water to the Jasper Highlands development, where Thornton has sold 72 of the initial 99 residential lots made available last year. Thornton plans to expand his mountaintop development with hundreds of other lots, and he said city officials previously told him that they could sell him the land he needs.
Mayor David Jackson said that is not the case.
"We did not tell him yes or no," he said. "We listened to what they had to say. We cannot legally sell him the property. We would have to have a sealed-bid auction or an open auction. You can't sell city property of any type just outright."
It is possible the city could lease the property to Thornton, officials said, but Alderman Mark Payne said he was against leasing the city's rights to the land either way.
"We've got the [water] tank and the property, and if something happens in the future and this town needs the property, we could take an action today that could tie this town's hands for future progress," he said. "I say no."
Payne said he was concerned that the board had not seen any designs or drawings on Thornton's plan.
"We heard lots of things, but we haven't seen any written proposals," he said.
Thornton said the engineering work for the pump station is almost complete, and the specifications for it will be available before the board's next meeting on April 4.
The "great news," he said, is that people from Ohio to Florida are visiting Kimball and spending money there while looking to buy property near the town.
"This makes the merchants happy, and Kimball gets the revenue from that," Thornton said.
Alderman Jerry Don Case echoed Thornton's outlook and said he thinks selling or leasing the property for the pump station would be a good idea.
"They're going to have to buy and shop somewhere," he said. "Chances are, they're going to come right back down here to Kimball, and hopefully boost our revenue. All he's asking us for is a little [piece of land] to put a pump on."
Thornton said he would be willing to lease the land or purchase it from the city, and that "whichever they would prefer would be fine."
Case said Thornton has done everything he has said he'd do for the town, and the Jasper Highlands development would help all of Marion County, not just Kimball.
"We're looking at saying, 'Get the revenue in here,' and now we're saying 'We don't want the revenue,'" he said. "I look at it a different way. I'm just one person."
Vice Mayor Rex Pesnell said until Thornton provides written documents on his plan, there is little the board can do.
"It's a moot issue until we see something like that," he said.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at email@example.com.