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Burned-out building’s fate hinges on intersection plans

Some citizens in the town of Unicoi are getting burnt out on looking at a burned-out building at the intersection of Marbleton Road and Unicoi Drive, and are letting their complaints be heard. However, the hands of town leaders are tied as the town waits for the Tennessee Department of Transportation to work on a project that will eventually remove the house.
Three years ago, a fire in the upstairs apartment destroyed the two-story building, leaving a charred shell. Citizens have complained that the building should be torn down as it is seen as an eyesore in the middle of the town’s businesses.
However, despite the town’s zoning rules, there is no ordinance that would force the owners, Kevin and Terry Kent McInturff, to demolish the building.
Town Recorder Larry Rea said the town of Unicoi has no ordinance that could condemn and force it to be removed.
“We don’t have a law that would allow us to do that,” Rea said. The only zoning ordinance that could affect it would be if the location became a health and safety issue, such as being infested with poisonous snakes.
The Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen would be unable to pass such an ordinance to force the condemnation and apply it to that building, because that law would have gone into effect after the fire. Any new similar cases could be covered by the ordinance, but not ones that happened in the past.
But, Rea said, although the town officials can’t force the building to be demolished, they are in the middle of a process with TDOT to redesign the intersection.
Unicoi has been approved for a federal SPOT grant for $220,000, with 80 percent funded from the federal level and the 20 percent match coming from TDOT. There is no cost to the town.
TDOT is working on the environmental document, and then the project will move forward to the right-of-way department. Rea said the project is now in TDOT’s hands and there is nothing the town can do to hurry it along.
The project calls for the dangerous intersection to be changed from a 45-degree angle to a 90-degree angle, meaning the new intersection would go through the property the building occupies.