published Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Residential, retail projects proposed for busy East Brainerd Road intersection sparks debate

  • photo
    Proposed retail and residential developments to be built near intersection of Ooltewah-Ringgold Road and East Brainerd Road.
    Illustration by Laura McNutt.

The question will be if Ooltewah-Ringgold Road and East Brainerd Road can handle the traffic introduced by new retail and residential developments potentially going up right off the intersection of the two East Brainerd thoroughfares.

"The corridor out East Brainerd Road has been a problem for several years," said Hamilton County Commissioner Larry Henry, who represents the growing area targeted for a pair of new projects.

Henry said the addition of a proposed 125,000-square-foot commercial development across Ooltewah- Ringgold Road from the Bi-Lo shopping center will exacerbate the problem.

"I'm not real sure at this point that there's a real need for a mixed-use development across the street," he said. "I don't think the road would accommodate it."

The proposed development would sit on a 54-acre chunk of land to the southeast of the Ooltewah Ringgold Road and East Brainerd Road intersection.

Right now, the land is primarily zoned for agricultural use, but 12 acres tucked in the corner closest to the intersection is already zoned for commercial use.

Sam Issa, owner of ANT Group LLC, developer of the proposed project, on Tuesday said that he has ordered an independent traffic study at the site.

To alleviate traffic problems, his company will reach into its own pockets to widen a portion of Ooltewah Ringgold Road and add a left-turn arrow to the street light for motorists turning left off E Brainerd Road.

"That is an issue we would like to address," he said.

Regional planning staffers, in their assessment of the development, recommend that planning commissioners deny the rezoning request next Monday. Their report says the corner of commercial zoning on East Brainerd Road, combined with the Bi-Lo shopping center on the west side of Ooltewah Ringgold Road, fulfills the community plan's call for commercial development.

The report specifically compares Issa's development to the Target on Highway 153 in Hixson.

But Issa said his development will not house any big box vendors like Target. He said the development will target smaller stores and businesses.

"The impact is no more than what Bi-Lo has already done," he said.

In addition to the 29 acres of commercial zoning desired, Issa also applied to have roughly the other half of the land, about 25 acres, zoned for apartments.

He said the apartments will be high-end, larger units designed for families. The building will be three stories or less, and Issa said the desired number is around 250 units.

"We're asking for the ideal thing to happen," he said.

Issa is coincidentally not the only developer hoping to add housing on Ooltewah Ringgold Road. Half a mile north of his proposed development, Chattanooga builder Mike Moon is eyeing a 17-acre tract of land for single-family housing.

Moon's site is directly across Ooltewah Ringgold Road from East Hamilton High School and currently occupied by Crossroads Baptist Church.

Moon's proposal calls for the demolition of the church and the construction of a single-family home subdivision.

Henry said the single-family subdivision is not as much a worry to him as the commercial development farther south, but he said the interest from developers in East Brainerd does require another look at the road situation.

Henry said phase one of a project to widen E Brainerd Road is nearly underway. But even when finished, it will only affect the stretch between Graysville Road and Bel-air Road.

The project calls for East Brainerd Road to be widened to four lanes with a turn lane in the center.

Phase two of the project, on the other hand, is nowhere near started, or funded. It could be 20 years away.

Phase two calls for the stretch of East Brainerd Road between Bel-air Road and Ooltewah Ringgold Road to be made four-lane with a central turn lane.

Until that happens, Henry said any big development is going to face hurdles.

"We're going to have to address some infrastructure needs, first of all," he said. "That's what I see."

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480.

about Alex Green...

Alex Green joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 after completing the paper's six-month, general assignment reporter internship. Alex grew up in Dayton, Tenn., which is also where he studied journalism at Bryan College. He graduated from Rhea County High School in 2008. During college, Alex covered the city of Graysville and the town of Spring City for The Herald-News. As editor-in-chief of Bryan College's student news group, Triangle, Alex reported on ...

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