Kingsport mulls creating Neighborhood Commission

Matthew Lane • Aug 28, 2017 at 12:33 PM

KINGSPORT — You want to get to know your neighbor, don’t you? To have a better looking neighborhood or have someone watch over your house when you’re out of town?

And if concerns or questions do come up within a neighborhood, it would be nice to have an advocate handy who’s knowledgeable about the city and able to help resolve any problems that arise.

Those were just some of the goals recently discussed concerning the idea of Kingsport creating a Neighborhood Commission.

The idea — one of the top five coming from the One Kingsport Advisory Commission — is to create a 12-member board with representatives from various neighborhoods, a city representative and an alderman, which would then have a number of options.

— To provide neighborhoods with a strong link to the city.

— To help identify best practices, share success stories and remove roadblocks.

— To provide a venue for neighborhoods to gather for collaboration.

Ultimately, the commission would result in a strong alliance between the city and its neighborhoods.

“If you look at project opportunities in our city, we’ve never had much coordination or cooperation of neighborhoods to get projects done,” said Charlie Nitschke, a member of the One Kingsport Advisory Commission. “We have some excellent neighborhood associations, like Fair Acres and Ridgefields, and they manage to accomplish a lot. We’d like to use people from those neighborhoods as a teaching example for other neighborhoods.”

The National League of Cities — a resource and advocate for more than 19,000 cities, villages and towns — encourages neighborhood empowerment with municipalities. In researching the creation of a neighborhood commission, local officials drew from NLC principles and looked at two other cities having success with similar organizations: Roanoke, Va., and Nashville.

One challenge that immediately comes to mind is that there are more than 12 neighborhoods in Kingsport. So how is each part of town going to be represented in a fair and equitable way?

“That’s going to be a challenge,” Nitschke said. “I got out the city map and I stopped counting at about 90.”

And there are going to be people, possibly entire neighborhoods, who simply will not participate. Hopefully, as people join initially, other, more hesitant folks will see the positive things happening and decide to come on board too, Nitschke said.

“There’s a lot of pent up energy and we’d like to get it going. We’re poised to begin the process. How long it might take to put things together, I don’t really know,” Nitschke said. “I think the best thing will be a strong alliance between city and neighborhoods, an element of cooperation perhaps never quite had in the past. And it’ll be all across the city rather than in different spots.”