JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — The City of Johnson City plans to give a plot of land to Holston Habitat for Humanity to develop affordable housing, but some neighbors say the land is reserved as a park.

The land is around three acres and sits at the corner of John Exum Highway and Moorland Drive. Neighbors know the land as Greenway Park.

The land has been owned by the city since 1962.

Green Space 1 by Clarice on Scribd

One neighbor, Jim Blevins, has lived in his home that adjourns the piece of land for many years. He says back in 2007, the city tried to sell the land to a church to develop but was told it couldn’t because the deed reserved the land as a park.

“The city’s own attorney, Mr. James Epps, advised the commissioners that they could not sell the property,” said Blevins. “They could not dispose of it, that it had been obtained as a green space park to be forever held as such.”

Jim Blevins has fought city commissioners before who have tried to sell Greenway Park to a church to develop on. (Photo: WJHL).

Blevins understands that the community needs affordable housing, but that the community also needs parks.

“We shouldn’t have to go through this every few years with the city trying to dispose of a beautiful open field back there that’s being utilized,” said Blevins.

Assistant City Manager Randy Trivette says he had the city attorneys check the deed to see if they can build affordable housing on the land.

“[City attorneys] sent me a statement back where they had researched the deeds and found that it is acceptable and meets the restrictions of the deed to build affordable housing or a park,” said Trivette.

Green Space 2 by Clarice on Scribd

Trivette says the deed has two covenants restricting the land to residential housing or for commercial use. Covenants that wouldn’t have allowed a church to be developed.

He says the deed’s covenants include specifications for the lot sizes as well.

Holston Habitat for Humanity says they have been working with the city since March 2022 on this project. They plan to develop single-family and multi-family homes that will house around 13 to 15 families. They know park space is a concern and have planned for it.

“To have some green space for some park space as well,” said Outreach and Homeowner Services Manager Alanna Leonberg. “So details of how this will all work out in final design are still being, that’s still in the works, but we have those things planned.”

Trivette predicts that they will be able to provide at least a half-acre park on the property.

“Once we get this concept plan approved and the city decides to move forward with this, then we’ll work with [Holston Habitat for Humanity] to allocate space for a neighborhood park,” said Trivette.

City commissioners will review a proposal for this land during their work session and commission meeting on May 18. The work session is from 3-5 p.m. where Holston Habitat for Humanity will present their proposal. The commission meeting starts at 6 p.m.