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Bristol, Va., accuses Bristol, Tenn., of 'unwarranted aggression'

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Residents of the Twin Cities of Bristol, Tenn., and Bristol, Va., awoke to a very weird story on the front page of the March 12 Bristol Herald Courier entitled, "Stop the Unwarranted Aggression." However, it was not about the Russians encroaching on the Ukraine. The city of Bristol, Va., had issued a resolution demanding that Bristol, Tenn., stop the "unwarranted aggression" against their shopping center development, The Falls. A similar shopping center is being constructed a few miles down the road in Tennessee called The Pinnacle, and the City Council of Bristol, Va., has also demanded that their Tennessee counterparts "rein in" the developer of The Pinnacle, Steve Johnson.

The Bristol, Va., leaders have cited over a century of good relations between the two entities which is in jeopardy due to lobbying efforts done by Johnson and his partner to defeat tax-related legislation that would benefit The Falls. You can read about some of the legal battles Bristol, Va., has won recently here. Johnson has purchased some additional acreage near The Pinnacle which lies in Washington County, Va., outside of the city of Bristol, and he claims that this is the reason that the Virginia legislation affects The Pinnacle.

In a March 12 article on Tri-Cities News.com, Mayor Michelle Dolan of Bristol, Tenn., seemed perplexed about why their neighboring city was "threatening" them. She described the development of The Pinnacle, located near the Bristol Regional Medical Center, as a private venture in which it was not appropriate for the government to become involved. The Falls, located off of Lee Highway on the Virginia side of town, has been planned and orchestrated by the city government which has approved $10 million in general obligation bonds to help finance it.

Many residents have questioned the economic viability of these two shopping centers, the one in Virginia hosting Cabela’s and the one in Tennessee hosting Bass Pro Shops. Read "The Tale of Two Shopping Centers" here. The area has been hard-hit with business closings and unemployment. There have also been questions about the amount of public involvement and funding in The Falls; one resident actually filed a lawsuit regarding the $10 million in bonds, but it was thrown out.

So after many years of a peaceful, profitable relationship between the two cities that have a state line running down their main street, aptly named State Street, it appears things have gone awry. The uniqueness of Bristol has always been tied up in this joint partnership that makes up the town.

Residents have long stood on each side of the street for parades and swelled with pride as the police cars and fire trucks from the respective cities slowly progressed down State Street with lights flashing and sirens blowing. Now, it appears there are "threats" and "unwarranted aggression."

What a very weird news story.

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