Leaders assess growth options

Leaders assess growth options

February 29th, 2012 Rachel Sauls in Local Regional News

The opening of Interstate 75's exit 9 and a recent case that came before the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency have several city of Chattanooga, Hamilton County and city of Collegedale administrators discussing planned growth in the East Hamilton area.

The Regional Planning Commission deferred for 12 months Kosygin Lameechee Jones' request to rezone five agricultural and residential properties on Old Cleveland Pike to commercial, because there was not a site plan for the area.

"I'm not ready to vote for it without a site plan," said Planning Commissioner Don Moon. "[Commercial zone] C-2 is probably going to be the ultimate use for that, but we don't know what that use is going to look like without a plan."

According to the application, Jones intends to develop a fast food restaurant or gas station on the property that sits just off the recently opened exit. This property is part of a tract of land that has been annexed by the city of Chattanooga, although that won't go into effect until Dec. 31, 2012.

The deferral of Jones' request was passed unanimously by the commission, but his request sparked a discussion regarding a land use plan for the area that now acts as a gateway to Enterprise South, the city of Chattanooga and the city of Collegedale.

"This is going to be in the city, and [this request] just looks like it's a rush to go in there and try to rezone," said Planning Commissioner and Chattanooga City Council District 4 representative Jack Benson. "It would be terrible to do this - and premature - until we've got a land use plan out there that will really qualify this growth."

However, not all planning commissioners were supportive of creating a land use plan for the area.

"I understand denying or deferring because of a site plan, but this has been coming for three years," said Planning Commissioner and local developer Barry Payne. "There's been time to have a land plan, and we're punishing the owners of the property for our not having a land use plan."

A complete area land use plan could take as long as two years to create, but there may be other planning options that better serve the area, said Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency Executive Director John Bridger.

"What we're going to be doing over the next two weeks is talking to elected officials to find out what the issues are to determine the best type of project or study for that area," he said. "We want to be very clear on the desired outcome for the area, and the information we provide will be a tool we recommend to address specific issues."

Collegedale Strategic Planner Kelly Martin and Collegedale Tomorrow Advisory Board Chairman David Barto both suggested implementing specific design standards in the area as a way to achieve more attractive planned development that will provide a smooth transition into Collegedale, Chattanooga and Enterprise South. Martin listed Chattanooga's North Shore development as an area where the city of Chattanooga implemented design standards in an urban setting. Collegedale has been working to implement standards in a suburban community for several years, he said.

"We've had some experience out here and we will be more than happy to cooperate with the city of Chattanooga or Hamilton County to share what we've been doing," said Martin. "The more cooperation everyone can provide, the better the outcome will be."

Bridger agreed that heightened design standards might be a viable alternative to a land use plan for the area.

"There's a real sense of urgency if there's a desire to change or update development standards," Bridger said as to the imminent need to address the situation. "Something we need to take into consideration as we look at development is, 'What's the overall quality of development we are trying to achieve?'"