Tazewell, Va. — Tazewell’s little league baseball and softball program will soon have a new home and the Back of the Dragon will expand its operations.
The Tazewell Town Council voted 5-1 during its Sept. 10 meeting to sell the current property used by the little league on the west end of town to Back of The Dragon LLC. The vote came after council heard objections from four speakers, who were part of a packed house gathered to hear about the deal.
Shortly after the meeting opened council voted 6-0 to transfer the property to the town’s Industrial Development Authority which would sell it to the Back of the Dragon LLC. Councilmember Nancy Brooks said the town was “in it with Back of the Dragon. It is our economic resurrection. It is essential for us to support it.”
“We are always most concerned with the children. The fact is they are going to end up with a wonderful new facility,” she added.
Councilman Glen Catron read the purchase agreement to sell the property used for little league baseball and softball which is beside the Back of the Dragon Welcome Center to the company. The agreement called for the company to pay $300,000 for the property and agree to provide the town two new fields for use by the little league.
When Danny Willis and David Altizer spoke from the audience after council was preparing to vote on the sell, council agreed to hear public comment. Council Member Chris Brown said Back of the Dragon wanted to move quickly and that was the reason things happened so fast with the property transfer.
Altizer, who lives just below the fields, applauded the council for taking care of the little league.
“You also have a duty to the people who live there,” he said. “While there is commerce there, there are also resident Motorcycles in large numbers are real loud and there are people who want to sit on their porch and enjoy peace and quiet and kids who need to sleep.”
He asked if the town would allow firearms on the property.
“I have learned in my line of work, (attorney), that firearms and alcohol don’t mix,” he said.
Willis said “pretty much everything was done at the 11th hour and Joe Public didn’t hear much about it and that seems to happen too often.” He and Altizer also questioned the problems that would come with alcohol.
“I fixed a set of mail boxes that a motorcycle took out,” Willis said.
Former Mayor Don Buchanan said he was appalled that a facility that had been there for over 100 years would be sold.
“Back of the Dragon is not their facility it is the road and that is why people come here. They aren’t coming here for the dragon,” he said.
Buchanan said replacement fields would cost $2 million or more. And the town needed six or seven fields not just two. Larry Blankenship spoke on behalf of the Tazewell Baseball Boosters. He said travel ball goes on year round and there was a need for those fields and more.
“I am not opposed to economic development but make sure these kids are not in second place,” he said.
“I would like to say that my ultimate goal in all of this is that the kids have better facilities,” Councilmember Emily Combs Davis said prior to the vote.
“We want to have an area where we can put two fields now and there is room to expand,’ she continued. “We don’t want little league next door to the bar,” Brooks said.
Brown said he met with the little league board, the mayor and others prior to the deal and everyone was in agreement.
“We don’t want two fields we want a facility that everyone can be proud of,” Brown said.
Councilmember David Fox, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said he was concerned about the people who live in the neighborhood having their peace and quiet disturbed and not being able to sell their property.
The agreement calls for the town to have drawings and detailed plans for what will be on the site. The little league will have use of the field through March 1, 2021, or until the two new fields are available.
The company also acknowledged that the IDA must be able to acquire property for the new fields. The fields are to be located within town’s limits or no more than seven miles outside them. The town also must be able to modify the fields at Lincolnshire for use by little league by March 1, 2020.
The town had owned the west end property since 1915 and it had been used for the high school football field before becoming the little league took over. The closing date is scheduled for no later than Nov. 1.
The IDA has already held its September meeting and will take up the matter in October.