Face-lift: New Brainerd Road zoning would change parking, greenspaces

Face-lift: New Brainerd Road zoning would change parking, greenspaces

May 13th, 2014 by Alex Green in Business Around the Region

OTHER MAJOR CHANGES

SIGNS

• Disallowed: Pole-mounted signs, internally-lit box signs, mass-produced neon, off-premise billboard signs

• Allowed: On-building, window and monument signs

• Window signs: Must not occupy more than 20 percent of window area

• Monument signs: Must not exceed six feet tall, 10 feet wide (60 sq. ft.)

BUILDINGS

• 18 feet: Minimum height requirement

• Allowed: Brick, stone, glass, architectural metal pane systems and concrete masonry materials

• Disallowed: Pre-engineereed metal buildings. Aluminum siding, vinyl siding and synthetic rock limited

Brainerd Road Overlay Zone concept by the Chattanooga/Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission.

Photo by Laura McNutt/Times Free Press.

Brainerd Road will look very different if proposed new zoning requirements are enacted in the Brainerd area.

Green spaces, pedestrian lanes and parking in the back of storefronts will take the place of asphalt flats, low buildings and the forest of signs that currently clutter the busy corridor.

That's according to a staff presentation outlining the Brainerd Road Overlay Zone concept to the Chattanooga/Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission.

If things go smoothly, the concept could become a city ordinance by late summer, requiring all new developments, and some old ones, to adhere.

Affected area

According to Monday's presentation, all properties along Brainerd Road between the Spring Creek Road intersection and the East Brainerd Road intersection - a roughly one-mile stretch - will be affected. Plus, some minor roads on the back side of Brainerd Road between the interstate will be impacted.

Brainerd Road for years has suffered from a deluge of commercial development right on the road, resulting in its current cramped state, difficult for drivers to navigate, and nearly impossible for walkers and bikers.

Plus, "it's a nasty, ugly disaster," said Carol Berz, city councilwoman, on Monday.

To combat the issues Brainerd Road faces, the planning staff effort now is to "realize the primary objectives of 'Brainerd ... a Vision for Today'" which is the community's master plan, as adopted by the city council in 2011.

The primary objectives as outlined Monday are:

• To improve the corridor's looks

• To address traffic congestion on Brainerd Road

• To make the corridor more pedestrian, bike and transit friendly

To do this, the Brainerd overlay plan calls for the introduction of a grassy street edge, a bike and pedestrian area behind, another landscaped grassy strip and then storefronts, with all parking pushed to the back, away from the road.

The plan also lays down requirements for building height and exteriors, as well as similar rules for signs.

Proposed zones

The new plan calls for a six-foot, grassy "Street Edge Zone" to "soften the edges with trees and landscaping" along Brainerd Road. This street edge zone calls for the consolidation of curb cuts, requiring parking access points to be consolidated and shared by businesses. The plan also calls for one curb cut per 150 linear feet and one tree per 35 linear feet.

Allowed in the street edge zone are street lights and bus shelters. Disallowed are chainlink or slat fences, large trash receptacles and HVAC equipment.

Inside the street edge zone, the plan calls for a 12-foot "Bike/PED Zone," intended to increase pedestrian connectivity. Businesses are not allowed to have their doors open onto the strictly traffic walkway. The thoroughfare is to remain clear of any obstacles, and crosswalks are required at access points.

The fourth street-side requirement is the "Storefront/Building Zone." That zone can be up to eight feet deep and consist of outdoor cafes, bike racks and landscaping. Building placement affects how deep the storefront zone must be.

Parking

One of the major changes to come if the overlay plan is adopted is a shift from large parking lots adjacent to Brainerd Road to parking lots instead pushed to the rear of road-side structures.

Parking can be positioned to the side of a building if space is not available in back.

Planning agency staffers said Monday they will also call for businesses to do more sharing with their parking and parking lot access. Instead of dividing parking lots, the planning agency will ask businesses to tear out dividers and allow drivers to move around rear lots, removing their need to access Brainerd Road in order to hop around nearby stores.

Parking discounts will be available to those taking part in the sharing plan.

Redevelopments

As proposed, the new requirements will not apply to existing structures and properties unless changes are made.

In the case of an expansion involving less than 25 percent of the lot space, the property must be redeveloped to adhere to overlay plan standards.

Any change or addition to an existing structure or parking lot exceeding 25 percent is considered a new development and must comply with all of the new standards.

A rendering of how the proposed zoning requirements would affect greenspaces along Brainerd Road.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

For redevelopments, if an existing store lies far off the road and has parking which extends forward to the road's edge, the plan calls for the owner or operator to install the street edge and bike/ped zones along Brainerd Road. Also, between the bike/ped zone and the parking lot, there is a required grassy screen, to be three to four feet deep, with a hedge.

One shade tree is required for every seven parking spaces, and within 40 feet of every parking space, for both redevelopments and new developments.

Going forward

Monday was the first time the Brainerd Road Overlay Zone plan was presented to the public, and there are several steps ahead before it can become law.

Planning staff members will again present the plan on Wednesday to the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's MidTown group.

And on June 9, the plan will again come before the planning commission, for a final recommendation to the Chattanooga City Council, which has the final say-so in the matter.

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