By Ashley Rader
Those looking for a unique, central place to call home may one day be able to find that place in downtown Elizabethton.
The Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission took the first steps in a process that would one day allow for more residences to be located in the central downtown business district.
Commission chairman Paul Bellamy noted that several other downtowns in the region had multiple options for individuals or families who wanted to live in the central business area. He asked the other commissioners if this was something they would like to see happen in Elizabethton.
The rest of the commission agreed, but expressed some concern about protecting the historic qualities in downtown and questioned if there would be enough of a “draw” to bring people into the district to live.
Director of Planning and Development Jon Hartman said that question was one similar to the “chicken and the egg.”
“There is some question if the commercial development follows the residential or if the residential development follows commercial,” he said. “Studies have shown that if the residential component is there then the businesses will follow.”
City Manager Jerome Kitchens commented the residential component was one that was needed in downtown. He asked that the planning commission be flexible enough with the development, while still maintaining all structural and safety standards, to allow the developers to create housing opportunities, such as lofts and multi-family units.
He said developing the downtown would bring people to live more centrally and would make services easier to provide for residents in that area.
“It is important not just to say that we want the development, but to have the guidelines in place to make it happen,” Kitchens said.
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