By Kendal Groner
During the Town of Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen Meeting on Monday, April 23, the board heard a report on a Unicoi County joint retail study and approved an ordinance to amend the current municipal code on alcoholic beverages to allow craft beer enterprises in Erwin.
Adam Chandler, an economic development consultant with the company Retail Attractions, reported on the findings of the joint retail study. In his report, he focused on retail leakage, the I-26 corridor, a secondary retail market and strategies for recruiting national retail.
“I was brought here to find out where Unicoi County is at in regards to retail development, and what kind of retail there could potentially be here,” said Chandler.
The categories with the most retail leakage, or money being spent elsewhere, was from motor vehicles and parts dealers, food and beverage stores, non-store retailers and general merchandise.
“A large majority leaks north into Johnson City,” Chandler said. “I would say 85 percent or more is going across the county line into Washington County.”
However, he highlighted the I-26 corridor and regarded the six Unicoi County exits as a “huge plus” moving forward with retail development.
As far as secondary retail, which he defined as the strip of development between the Food Lion and Tractor Supply, he said the town should focus on ways to improve the overall aesthetics of the area.
For strategies to recruit national retailers, he suggested gathering information on the most likely land parcels that can be purchased, making use of experienced and reputable brokers and matching market data with compatible users.
“What people really care about is the land and the real estate,” he said.
Chandler concluded his remarks by saying that, along with working to overcome declining population numbers and recruiting hotels, the county should focus on recruitment and cultivations for exits 36, 37 and 40. Ongoing planning and development of exit 37 should continue with a focus on regional and local retailers according to Chandler.
“There’s a lot of promise here,” he said. “I think it can get a lot better.”
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As a followup to a recommendation by the Erwin Beverage Board, the board unanimously approved the ordinance to amend the current municipal code for alcoholic beverages, specifically dealing with beer. The ordinance now allows craft beer, which was previously restricted, within the city limits of Erwin.
“This would, for instance, allow for a brewery, a tap room, not just in the downtown area, but for them to do business in the Town of Erwin,” said Glenn Rosenoff, city recorder. “This opens the door for that kind of business that has been an example of retail leakage.”
Alderman Mark Lafever made a motion to approve the resolution, and it was seconded by Alderwoman Rachelle Hyder-Shurtz before it unanimously passed.
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In other business, the board unanimously approved a resolution authorizing a capital outlay note not to exceed $350,000 for the purpose of purchasing police vehicles, fire protection equipment and gear, and street department trucks and equipment.
The board also unanimously approved a lease agreement in the amount of $23,000 between the Town of Erwin and the Unicoi County YMCA regarding the operations of Fishery Park swimming pool for the calendar year 2018.