James granted variance: Zoning board allows exception for proposed liquor store site

Vicky Newman News Herald


Loudon liquor store developer Johnny James is back on track after a land snafu that had threatened the entire project was cleared.

The City of Loudon Board of Zoning Appeals Wednesday approved a setback variance for 5 feet, paving the way for James to proceed toward obtaining a Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission liquor license, and begin work on his building at Centre 75 Business Park.

James said he met opposition when he sought the setback variance, both from Russ Newman, city planner, and the adjacent property owner, Jack Sims, owner of Taco Bell. However, the board voted unanimously to grant the setback variance. The motion of Carlie McEachern, seconded by Jimmy Greenwood, was to grant the requested variance on the side opposite Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell. 

“I was surprised that Russ was so adamant that he did not want me to get the variance,” James said later. “Unless you got a tape measure and put it to it, you would never know.” Newman could not be reached for comment Friday.

The Loudon City Council had awarded a certificate of compliance to James March 16. The problem with the proposed site plan emerged the following week. The plan, upon which the certificate of compliance was predicated, included a setback of 10 feet. Zoning regulations require a setback of 15 feet.

James said he had been prepared to purchase the additional footage needed, for $20,000. However, at the Loudon County Economic Development Agency meeting, Loudon County Mayor Doyle Arp had said the purchase of additional footage would require prior approval by the Loudon County Commission. Maneuvering through channels would not be possible, given the state’s timeline for completing the project.

James said he expects to meet with Pat Phillips, LCEDA president, this week to discuss the site plan further, and hopes to begin erecting a steel building with glass and brick facade and metal roof in three weeks. 

Loudon City Council member Lewis “Charlie Brown” Garner, who is also a member of the planning commission and board of zoning appeals, said the city is ready to move forward. “This thing has rocked on long enough; we need to get past it,” he said.