published Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

'Green' supplier eyes Chattanooga

Developers plan to lure an environmentally-friendly equipment supplier from Boston to Chattanooga with a $2 million Shallowford Road project.

But nearby residents worry the project will bring nothing but noise and traffic to an already busy area.

Mark Settles, vice president of Yerbey Concrete Construction, wouldn't identify the business, but called the company "the Home Depot of environmental stuff," such as energy-efficient lighting, needed for green projects. The company's offices are already located in Chattanooga, but its distribution center is in Boston.

"They want to close Boston and solidify here," Settles said. "They're expanding and bringing their out-of-town business to Chattanooga."

But Shelly Stevens, whose house sits on Agawela Drive just behind the proposed construction site, worries the traffic that comes along with a distribution center could hurt area wildlife, endanger neighborhood children and pollute the neighborhood. She already is regularly awakened at 6 a.m. by garbage trucks on the site, she told city planners Monday, a problem she expects will only worsen.

"If I can hear them now, what would I hear six months from now or a year from now?" she asked. "I will no longer have an enjoyable home."

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission deferred its decision on whether to approve the rezoning at 4121 Shallowford Road and will pick it back up again in two months. Chattanooga City Councilman Russell Gilbert said that will give him time to unite the community living around the 8.6-acre site and meet with developers.

"There are various concerns about the road," he said. "I want to get an understanding of what's going to be there."

Settles said he expects little to no additional noise and traffic if the project is completed. His company has owned property in the neighborhood for 30 years, and Settles said he has only made moves that improve the area.

"You've got sort of a run-down neighborhood over there. Everything we've done so far has only made that neighborhood better," he said. "We took eyesores and got rid of them. We took a landfill, and now you've got grass growing on it."

Settles plans to meet with community members sometime before the November planning agency meeting. If the project gets city approval, he expects it to be built in 2014.

Contact Carey O'Neil at coneil@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6525. Follow him at twitter.com/careyoneil.

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