Planning group favors privatizing road at site

Planning group favors privatizing road at site

June 9th, 2009 by Brian Lazenby in Business

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission voted on Monday to abandon public access to Aetna Mountain Road to the delight of some property owners and the dismay of others.

The matter will now go to the Chattanooga City Council for final approval that could lead to the road becoming private, officials said.

Doug Stein, president of Stein Construction Co., who is heading the development to be known as Woodlands of Black Creek, said public access along the road has caused a "wild west" atmosphere of vandalism, arson, gunfire and general lawlessness.

The road was the focus of a 2004 lawsuit heard in Chancery Court in which Chancellor Howell Peoples ruled that the road would remain open.

More than 30 property owners attended the meeting to show their support for abandoning or limiting access to the road because they contend it is dangerous and causes damage to their property.

Jeff Fox led the group of property owners who claim closing the road would limit access to their property, but ultimately admitted to the commission that there is an alternate route to his property.

Arnold Schultz, who represents Raccoon Caverns, said closing the road limits his client's rights.

"Closing the road would be highly detrimental to my client's property rights," he said.

But representatives of the development said any gate they erect across the road would provide access to authorized people to the mountain. It is the unauthorized use by people who are only there to ride four-wheelers and damage property that will be barred, he said.

Jeff Perlaky, who owns property on the mountain, said the public should have access along the road.

"There is public land up there, and the public has every right to be up there," he said.

Mr. Perlaky was referring to 2,400 acres preserved in a public trust under the Forest Legacy Program.