Entrepreneurs look to bring luxury RV resort to Unicoi County

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UNICOI COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Two regional entrepreneurs are leading a project to bring a luxury RV park to Unicoi County.

As it stands right now, the proposed name of the facility will be the ‘Appalachian Highlands Resort.’ Aside from RV sites, the resort would include cabins, tiny homes, and glamping amenities.

While there is no official site for the resort as of yet, project leaders John Cannon and Ben Arnold said it would be somewhere along the Nolichucky River.

“The total project is pushing nine million dollars. So it’s a big project. We would have many, many jobs,” said Cannon.

“We’ve also identified a national RV resort management firm that’s interested in helping operate and manage the facility,” Arnold added.

The resort would be an Opportunity Zone real estate project, meaning investors would see long-term tax benefits by funding the project if it’s located within that zone. Federal legislation known as the Tax Cuts and Job Act of 2017 created Opportunity Zones around the country, including several in Northeast Tennessee.

SEE ALSO: Economic leaders hold ‘Appalachian Highlands Opportunity Zone Road Show’

Tyler Engle, executive director for the Joint Economic and Community Development Board of Unicoi County, said the Board supports the project as it moves toward a permitting phase.

“We’re working closely with the folks at the city as far as the entitlement process goes,” Engle said. “It’s an exciting time to help them get all of these ducks in a row. And then we would start working towards the construction phase.”

News Channel 11 spoke with Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley over the phone on Thursday. Hensley said she was in support of the project as an effort to develop the area’s tourism industry.

Aside from RV campsites, Cannon and Arnold envision the property to have a rustic inn and an event venue for weddings and conferences.

A cabin design rendering from a resort poster

Arnold is the CEO of outdoor tech company Connect Outdoors. He and Cannon said an accelerator space for developing similar companies could also be built on the property.

They believe the full project could take two years to open.

“The permitting process, I think, will be fairly straightforward,” said Cannon. “The big hurdle for us right now is we have to get the capital to make the whole project go.”

A website for the project launched on Wednesday and features a full list of the proposed resort’s amenities.

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