Gunbarrel townhouses now under consideration

Gunbarrel townhouses now under consideration

March 9th, 2011 by Jennifer Bardoner in Community Ooltewahcollegedale

With an estimated 20,000 new homes expected in the area due to Enterprise South alone, there will be a need for a variety of housing options, according to Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency Executive Director John Bridger.

The RPA is working with developer Mike Price on his rezoning application for 46 townhouses on both sides of Gunbarrel Road around the 1300 block, which is now surrounded by mostly single-family neighborhoods.

"As I understand it he doesn't intend to pursue the rezoning and the western site is going to develop as single family [units]," Bridger said. "On the eastern portion he's now trying to negotiate with residents and is also working with staff on how he can make some design modifications for how he can make it work a little better."

Both tracts are currently zoned R-1 for single-family homes.

The application for the eastern 5.7-acre tract was deferred in February and will be revisited at the March 14 Planning Commission meeting. At that time Price will present a modified version that addresses RPA staff recommendations.

"Our main comment for the eastern side was there needs to be more landscaping on the street frontage," said Bridger. "If you're trying to promote more diverse housing opportunities for people, it's important so that the public and community feel ownership of that and sees those as adding value to the community, you've got to pay attention to site design. I think good design work was done on the project, there's just more that needs to be done."

Bridger noted that Price's original design met minimum requirements, but "when you're trying to integrate with an existing neighborhood you've got to go above the minimum." He pointed to a nearby apartment development's substantial use of shrubs that made it "work a lot better along the street."

The proposed density of the eastern side is 2.6 units per acre, lower than the surrounding density of 3.1 units per acre.

RPA staff recommended to deny the application for the western side based on its proposed density of 5.8 units per acre. A lack of adequate buffering was also cited.

"Obviously when you do townhouses [density] is going to go up some. The question is how much," said Bridger. "The concern on the western portion was it went up too much. If they did a lot of landscaping and buffering, I think it could work. The design we looked at did not adequately address those principles."

As proposed, the heavily wooded 5.3-acre lot would have been largely cleared. The RPA recommends retaining natural features in order to help developments "fit in" with the area.

Councilman Jack Benson alluded to public concern over the impact the proposed developments would have on traffic.

"Everybody says turn it down because of traffic," he said. "You can't have growth and turn [development] down on traffic. We would never have had Hamilton Place if we turned [developments] down on traffic."

Bridger said he received a couple of calls from nearby residents just before the February meeting to introduce the original proposal.

"Those are people who were concerned about the project, but there hasn't been what I would say is an overwhelming voice of concern," he said. "I think there's been more concern since the Planning Commission [meeting]."

Bridger said he looks forward to continuing to work with the developer and the community in order to find a mutually agreeable solution.