published Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Ringgold Council eyes codes to shape reconstruction

by Andy Johns
Ringgold Middle and High schools were severely damaged during last week's storms.
Staff photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Ringgold Middle and High schools were severely damaged during last week's storms. Staff photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press

RINGGOLD, Ga. — City officials say they want Ringgold to recover quickly, but most importantly, they want the town to rebuild the right way.

At a called City Council meeting Tuesday, officials discussed working with owners and adding ordinances to regulate signs, facades and landscaping when rebuilding businesses destroyed by the tornado that devastated the town last week.

Most of the businesses were destroyed at the interchange of Highway 151 and Interstate 75, the main Ringgold exit on I-75.

David Dunn, a Ringgold resident and attorney, told council members they were at a “crossroads” and could choose an “ugly, unimaginative commercial strip” or “beautiful, creative” entrance to the city.

“The way you handle this situation is going to affect the future of Ringgold 50 years down the road,” Dunn said.

Councilman Bill McMillon envisioned new codes similar to those used in Helen, Ga.; Townsend, Tenn.; and Asheville, N.C., to make the city “not look like every other exit.”

Council members considered working with franchisees and owners at the hotels and fast food restaurants near the Interstate 75 interchange on Highway 151 to eliminate so-called “skyscraper signs,” improve landscaping and work the downtown area’s historic style into the rebuilt eateries.

Previous studies had suggested the city find a way to beautify and improve the Highway 151 corridor.

Mayor Joe Barger created a committee to explore the idea further and tentatively scheduled a follow-up meeting for Tuesday.

Barge recalled a visit to England, where local leaders told him they regretted not reworking streets and zoning after German bombs leveled blocks of towns during World War II. The mayor said Ringgold could seize the opportunity to rework areas of town, but said property owners would have to be sold on the idea even if it drove up the cost of rebuilding.

The mayor and others also stressed the need to develop a plan quickly, noting that some of the restaurants already appear to be taking steps toward reconstruction.

“It’d be good, but I’ve got my doubts,” Barger said.

Dunn said that, in the long term, the businesses would see increased traffic if the area is more visually appealing to travelers and locals.

“We may run into some bean counters that are only looking at the least cost to rebuild, but we’ll never know unless we try,” he said.

All property owners are required to get permits to rebuild their buildings within the city. Inspectors review the plans to ensure they follow ordinances, including any new rules the council puts into place.

Councilman Randall Franks said the idea of finetuning the rebuilding process could be extended to residential areas on Guyler, Sparks, High and Short streets. He said the University of Georgia offers free architectural plans matching various time periods that the city could present to rebuilding residents.

Council members said the residents should not be required to use the plans, but Franks and others said they hoped the period architecture would be considered.

“It could be the prettiest neighborhood in town,” he said.

about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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grammynga said...

This is the right direction to go, I have found in the 4 yrs I have lived here that visitors to my home find it hard to take the Ringgold exit, #348, they always prefer to exit at Battlefield for the reason that Ringgold exit is always so busy, mostly with local congestion. A more sight pleasing exit would surely enhance our city/area. I am proud of Mr Franks for stepping up to the plate in this issure, after all we have a history to protect, and be proud of, good work all.

May 4, 2011 at 8:02 a.m.
dao1980 said...

Good call indeed.

A little extra money up front is usually worth it.

The long term value and aesthetic appeal of the larger initial investment will be appreciated by both residents and those just passing through for many years to come.

May 4, 2011 at 8:15 a.m.
bergerberg said...

Talk about a thumb in the eye of the business owners! "Hey, we know your business was just leveled and you've lost a lot of time and money. Also, you can't rebuild your restaurant the way it was; it's going to cost more now."

Reminds me of Rahm Emanuel: "You never let a serious crisis go to waste."

May 4, 2011 at 4:02 p.m.
rayray said...

Ringgold is a great little town and my heart breaks to see the devastation caused by the tornado’s - but the "sign" pollution has always been the awful - how on earth is it going to cost more if you don't put those gargantuan signs back up?

Ringgold should have changed the codes when the Taco Bell sign took a dive years ago. It's a visual nightmare not to mention a danger to the community when they come down.

May 4, 2011 at 9:03 p.m.
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