Thursday, a specially-appointed Roane County Chancellor ruled against Anderson County in the lawsuit filed in 2012 by companies in the David Jones Industrial Park over the county’s proposal to relocate the controversial Glen Alpine convenience center on a vacant parcel of land in the county-owned park.
Originally four companies filed suit over the proposal—Carton Services, GWDU Leasing, Seneca Medical and CMH Inc.–but all but CMH are listed as plaintiffs in the ruling handed down Thursday.
The lawsuit sought a temporary injunction preventing the move and seeking to rescind the County Commission’s vote from 2012 to amend the covenants prohibiting trash collection sites in the park.
Seeking to end a decades-long dispute over how to address problems at the current site, which has been plagued by flooding and drainage issues as well as concerns over access and safety,not to mention the city of Clinton’s concerns about its location in a heavily-traveled commercial area, the county identified the David Jones Industrial Park as the most suitable and cheapest alternative site to move the convenience center.
In the spring of 2012, at the request of the Commission, ACEDA recommended changing the covenants regarding what can and cannot be located inside an industrial park to allow a well-maintained convenience center, and the County Commission overwhelmingly approved the changes. The approval came despite complaints from some of the businesses located there, and those complaints were formalized when the suit was filed in Anderson County Chancery Court.
Local chancellors recused themselves over potential conflicts of interest and Roane County Chancellor Frank V. Williams III heard arguments in the case.
The plaintiffs argued that locating a convenience center for use by the general public would violate terms of the Tennessee Industrial Park Act of 1959 prohibiting convenience centers in such locations. The Chancellor opined that argument became moot when the county adopted changes to the covenant and said that the plaintiffs’ case rested on whether or not the convenience center falls within the statutory definition of an industrial park under state law. Citing TCA 13-16-201(2), the Chancellor wrote that “Industrial park means land and rights, easements and franchises relating thereto, and may include adequate roads and streets, water and sewer facilities, utilities, and docks and terminals as required for the use of industry, and such appurtenant land for necessary incidental use. ‘Industrial park’ may also include a site for the establishment of a single industry.” (emphasis added)
The companies argued that a convenience center for use by the general public violated the covenants as the center would not be for their use. All of the companies in the DJIP are required to have their own solid waste removal capabilities and therefore, would not have use for the center.
The county argued that locating the convenience center in an area zoned for industrial use would be appropriate and cited five examples of similar situations in five nearby counties.
In the end, however, Chancellor Williams sided with the plaintiffs, ruling that “the county wants to move the convenience center to the [park], not because it would serve or be incident to the industries located there, but because it already owns land in the [park] and it would be cheaper to locate and operate on county-owned land than it would be if the county had to purchase other suitable land. The necessary or incidental needs of industrial activities within the park have nothing to do with the relocation of the convenience center. Thus, the location of the Glen Alpine Convenience Center within the DJIP is not required by industry, nor is it appurtenant land for necessary incidental use within the meaning” of the statute.
Williams granted the injunction to prevent the move and assessed all court costs to the county. Law Director Jay Yeager will update the County Commission on the ruling and present their options for a possible appeal during the May meeting of the County Commission.
As for where Thursday’s ruling leaves the situation, it is still unclear when or if the county will be able to move the center, which is something the city of Clinton has wanted for well over a decade.
Below is a link to the ruling handed down Thursday by the specially-appointed Chancellor