Jasper's annexation plans raise business concerns

Jasper's annexation plans raise business concerns

September 17th, 2012 by Ryan Lewis in Local Regional News

Billy Simpson, the mayor of Jasper, Tennessee

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Illustration by Laura McNutt /Times Free Press.

JASPER, Tenn. - The plan for Jasper to annex about 35 parcels of land between U.S. Highway 41 and Interstate 24's exit 158 and to build a sewer line through the area is bothering some business owners.

The Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the annexation starting on Jan. 1.

Officials said local business owners have expressed worries over the route of the sewer line and some new rules that will apply to businesses that sell alcohol.

Gary Cosby of CTI Engineers Inc. said the sewer line extension will be mostly on the northern, or "airport side," of U.S. 41.

The design uses a plan from 2009 that was intended for the now-defunct Rarity development, and businesses across the highway must access the sewer by "punching under the road," he said.

"Part of [the route] is just where it was laid out originally," Cosby said. "It was put in that way to miss some of the obstructions across the bridge and river, so we've left it over there."

Boring under the road could cost $15 to $20 per foot for businesses to connect to the sewer line, Cosby said.

After several business owners raised concerns about the additional costs for the line's placement, Mayor Billy Simpson asked Cosby to examine the possibility of routing the sewer along the south side of the highway so it would be easier for newly annexed businesses to hook on to.

After a thorough examination, Cosby said he did not recommend changes to the route because of the placement of waterlines and fiber-optic cables that already run along the highway and "take up all the sweet spots."

Another concern for some business owners involved new rules for those who sell liquor, officials said.

"Right now our city ordinance requires that all establishments close at midnight," City Attorney Mark Raines said. "Our ordinance is specifically drafted so that we opted out of the provisions where the [state's] liquor-by-the-drink law ... allows those establishments to stay open until 3 a.m."

That rule will apply to "anyone who is annexed into the city," Raines said. "They will be following the same rules as the establishments that are already operating [in Jasper]."

The board could modify the ordinance to allow all liquor-selling businesses to stay open until 3 a.m., but there are no provisions in state law for businesses to be "grandfathered in" under separate rules due to annexation, officials said.

Any business that violates the ordinance could be cited and lose its license, Raines said.

"Changing the ordinance may be something for the board to consider," he said.