PINEY FLATS, Tenn. - There is a stretch of Highway 11-E between Bristol and Johnson City that hit the development jackpot, thanks to the old real estate saying, "location, location, location."
Piney Flats is parked almost exactly between two of the three Tri-Cities. that's why developers and business owners are starting to set up shop just inside the city limits. "Its a growing place. Its a busy place," said Chris Joker, owner and proprietor of Tri-Liquor.
Joker's store is one of the many new offerings to make a home in Piney Flats, and he couldn't be happier with his location. "I did my research and found out that this was the spot that the liquor store needed to be. It's seven miles in either direction to another one," said Joker.
Add in the Food City parked next door, the proximity to Boone Lake, plus other stores and restaurants going in nearby, and Joker is poised to make plenty of money, which drew him to the area.
The growth potential is something the City of Johnson City recognizes. "A lot of folks work in Bristol and live in Johnson City, and vice-versa, so there's a lot of traffic in there. Obviously there's the race track, that brings a lot of traffic through there. It's an important intersection between two of the Tri-Cities," said Johnson City commissioner David Tomita
However, Tomitia told News 5 the growth is beginning to cause city leaders a headache. "We're going to have to look at whether the revenue we get off the sales tax in Piney Flats is enough to cover the cost of the infrastructure we put in there. Are we getting a return on that?" said Tomita.
With state lawmakers in Nashville putting a hold on annexation without a referendum, cities can't expand to cover the cost of previous growth. "[Annexation] is unlikely to pass in referendum, so we've really go to circle around and take a look at what we're doing, how we're doing it, and where we are spending our money," said Tomita. "It was a game-changer, an absolute game-changer. We will have to act accordingly."
At the moment, there is literally no where to go in Piney Flats but up. "The best return on investment is vertical now, is building on what we have. That's where downtown figures in, a lot of areas in the town that are already built. We need to build vertically because we already have the infrastructure," said Tomita.
Further proof of the importance of the Piney Flats corridor: a 2012 study found more than 20,000 cars passed through on Highway 11-E every day.