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Say what?

Norris City Council pans citizen/reporter’s idea that city ‘buy’ downtown area

A news reporter for the Norris Bulletin, a weekly newsletter produced in Norris, suggested in a long speech to the City Council Monday that the city government should buy the downtown business district and control it as a landlord, deciding what businesses should be allowed to operate there.

George Miceli, who is also a Norris resident and local political activist, prefaced his remarks with the announcement that he was “taking off his reporter’s hat” for the moment as he read from a prepared statement advocating that the city purchase and manage the large commercial property in the town square.

The property in question now houses Archer’s Supermarket, Sweet Café, a dentist’s office and the Norris post office, among other businesses.

Steve Pemberton of LaFollette, who said he has owned the property about 23 years, told The Courier News on Tuesday morning that he was not aware of Miceli’s proposal that the city buy the complex.

Pemberton said the property is not officially on the market, but that “an individual has approached me about buying it.”

No deal has been made yet and no contract is pending, Pemberton said, adding that he would sell the property “if someone meets my asking price.”

Miceli, who regularly covers the council meetings for the Bulletin, told the council and about 50 citizens in attendance that he felt that the city should buy the property “to preserve the nature of the downtown business district.”

The only council member who commented after Miceli spoke, Jill Holland Ryan, said she supported the idea.

Other than her comments, the council seemed to meet Miceli’s idea with stunned silence, and no action was taken.

Another member of the audience suggested that the city government go even further in controlling property within the city by becoming, in effect, a homeowners’ association, dictating every aspect of land use in the city, including deciding what colors people could paint their property.

The council members had no comments on her remarks.

In a separate action – or non-action, as it turned out – Councilwoman Ryan made a motion to have the council meet in a Saturday morning “workshop” in September to make rules for how the mayor and council should conduct council meetings.

Although she did not provide any examples, Ryan said the format Mayor Chris Mitchell follows is sometimes confusing to her.

She said she had been consulting with officials from the University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service on specific formats on how council meetings should be conducted, and said she would invite those officials to come to the workshop to advise the council.

Ryan’s motion failed when no council member seconded it, and the council moved on to its next agenda item.

The council appointed some new members to city boards and commissions, and approved a bill-payment motion, but had no other action items to consider on Monday night’s meeting agenda.