Despite receiving an unfavorable recommendation from the Tullahoma Municipal-Regional Planning Commission, the City of Tullahoma will surplus an approximately 2,500-square-foot section of West Monroe Street.
The board voted unanimously to surplus the property with several contingencies, including retention of easements for various city uses and the restriction of who may bid on the property. Alderman Robin Dunn was absent during the meeting, so the measure passed on a 6-0 vote.
The surplus request came about through court proceedings involving Jewell Noon, who owns the property at 214 W. Monroe St. According to attorney Michael Giffin, who represents the city in this matter, Noon placed a mobile home on his lot and partially on the city’s right-of-way. The reason for this, according to city officials, is that a large drainage ditch precluded him from placing his mobile home entirely on his own property.
When it became apparent Noon’s home was sitting on city property, a lawsuit was filed around 2012, Giffin said. After moving through the courts for several years, Circuit Court Judge Craig Johnson awarded judgment to the city on April 13, 2018, allowing the city request the home be moved.
Subsequently the court stayed the decision for 120 days in order to allow Noon time to make request that the right-of-way be surplused by the city. Once the property was surplused, Noon could place a bid on it and potentially own it, therefore rendering the judgment awarded to the city by Johnson moot.
After some delay on Noon’s part and an additional stay extension granted by the court, Noon made application to the planning commission to consider surplusing the right-of-way property.
During its December meeting, the planning commission voted unanimously to send an unfavorable recommendation to the city board, in essence denying the request made by Noon.
Despite receiving the unfavorable recommendation from the planning commission, the city board has the final say in whether or not real property owned by the city may or may not be surplused.
While the city board does not typically vote against the planning commission’s recommendation, it bucked tradition this time.
Alderman Jimmy Blanks made the motion to approve the request for surplus “subject to restricting eligible bidders to only the adjacent property owners at public auction … and reserve easements for ingress and egress, drainage and utilities.”
Alderman Ray Knowis seconded the motion, and the board approved unanimously.
Gerald Ewell, who represents Noon in this matter, called the planning commission’s recommendation “purely arbitrary,” saying the city has previously surplused a large portion of the adjacent right-of-way with no issue.
“The whole rest of the block has been surplused by the city,” Ewell said.
The adjoining property owner also has ownership of formerly city property, including the right-of-way next to Noon’s property.
“The city has surplused all but 12.5 percent of the entire block,” he said. “We would just ask the city treat Dr. Noon just like they treated the other property owner.
“Since this board made the decision to surplus that, we would just ask to be treated the same,” he said.
Despite the city’s approval to surplus the right-of-way, Noon is still in the midst of a legal battle with his neighbor over the placement of his mobile home.
Noon’s mobile home also sits partially on land owned by his neighbor to the east, and the two have been in litigation on the matter for several years.
City Attorney Steve Worsham said to the planning commission in December that Noon would still have to complete legal proceedings with his neighbor regarding an encroachment issue.
Having this 2,500-square-foot property surplused does not completely solve Noon’s civil litigation, Worsham said.
“There’s still going to be encroachment on the other property owner’s property,” he said, “so we can’t resolve that. We don’t have the authority or the power to resolve the conflict between the two property owners.”
City Administrator Jennifer Moody speculated in December that Noon might be under the impression that receiving the surplused property would mean he would no longer be required to move his mobile home, though that impression is incorrect.
Erin McCullough may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.