published Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Bradley County leaders back new Spring Branch Industrial Park

By Paul Leach/Correspondent

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CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Bradley County Commission has agreed to support a proposed joint industrial development project with the city of Cleveland and Cleveland Utilities.

Most of the commissioners this week were in agreement about the county's requirement to pitch in one-third of the $6 million startup costs for Spring Branch Industrial Park, which is to be located on 343 acres in southern Bradley County.

However, Commissioner Jeff Yarber split the commission's 8-6 vote on Monday by attaching a clause to the financial stakes in the proposed resolution.

Yarber's clause calls for a public meeting with Tennessee Department of Transportation representatives, county planning officials and 1st and 6th District commissioners within 30 days.

The purpose is to "explore options" for Harriman Road, a rural lane that abuts the planned industrial park, Yarber said.

Residents of McDonald, located next to the planned industrial park, have voiced concerns that the road will be turned into a major thoroughfare and threaten their safety.

Economic development officials previously said the intent for Harriman Road is to give the industrial park access to Interstate 75 through a planned interchange on APD 40.

However, residents have said they worry that industrial park employees and trucks will use Harriman Road as a way to access U.S. 11 instead of APD 40, cutting through Bancroft Road and dramatically increasing traffic throughout the community.

"It gives the community a safeguard knowing they get a face-to-face with the state," Yarber said of the meeting. He said it is a chance to give the citizens a sense of closure even if nothing can be done about using Harriman Road as an access to the park.

Commissioner Connie Wilson said she did not understand the need for Yarber's clause, nor did she recall the commission taking such measures when considering proposals for Wacker and Amazon.

The original resolution already made provisions for such meetings, Commissioner Bill Winters said, adding he considered the TDOT meeting request to be a separate issue.

"Everyone seems to be assuming that the [APD 40] connection with Harriman Road is only because of this industrial park," said Gary Farlow, president and CEO of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce at the commission meeting.

While the Harriman Road connection to APD 40 is not necessarily a requirement of the industrial park, it is a state transportation department requirement for the APD 40 interchange near I-75, according to Farlow.

"We can certainly ask TDOT if they will waive that requirement," he said.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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