Local doctor paints house bright lime to teach neighbors a lesson

Local doctor paints house bright lime to teach neighbors a lesson

December 11th, 2015 by Steve Johnson in Local Regional News

A house owned by Dr. James Newby is seen at the entrance to the Mahala Acres subdivision on Shallowford Road on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Dr. Newby painted most of the brick walls of the house bright green due to a dispute with neighbors about changing the property's zoning to commercial.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

A public notice sign for a Dec. 7 zoning request before the Regional Planning Commission is seen at the entrance to the Mahala Acres subdivision on Shallowford Road on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. At the entrance to the subdivision, Dr. James Newby painted most of the brick walls of a house he owns on this lot bright green due to a dispute with neighbors about changing the property's zoning to commercial.

A public notice sign for a Dec. 7...

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

James Newby says the bright yellow-green color splashed haphazardly across the brick walls of his house on Shallowford Road is officially called Hint of Lime.

His neighbors say it's more like sour grapes.

Newby, a primary care physician whose office is a few blocks away, was upset after his neighbors opposed his plan to get his property rezoned to allow an engineering firm to locate there.

So he, his son and some of his son's friends grabbed a paint bucket and some brushes a few weeks ago and started painting the outside of his one-story home. The place is perched on a rise in the 9300 block of Shallowford, between Highway 153 and Interstate 75. The group didn't quite finish the job — the tops of most of the walls and the chimney are still the original red-brick color.

"I simply wanted to garner some attention from some people," Newby told astonished Chattanooga City Council members when they considered his zoning request Tuesday. "Prior to painting it, not one of the neighborhood residents would hear me at all."

"I'm trying to let them know there are some things that could happen to that property that would be worse than having two engineers work there," he added. "I can do things within the law that might make the neighborhood look a lot less attractive."

Among those options, Newby said, is enrolling in the federal Housing Choice low-income housing program.

Councilman Chip Henderson started the questioning after Newby gave his talk.

"Is this finished?" he asked.

"I don't know yet," Newby responded, drawing frowns from the council members who were passing around photos of Newby's paint job.

"I don't think he has the best interests of the community at heart," Councilman Yusuf Hakeem said.

Councilman Chris Anderson, who had just weathered an intense debate over a proposed seven-story apartment building in his Southside district, was more blunt.

Dr. James T. Newby and his staff work at the newly opened Doctors Express Urgent Care located at 1521Gunbarrel Road.

Dr. James T. Newby and his staff work...

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

"Even with my issue, there were good, honorable people here tonight; I don't question their intent," he said. "But when I look at these pictures — this is repugnant I look forward to voting to deny this."

Things got worse for Newby.

Neighbor Samantha Holloway told the council that Newby "basically threatened and extorted all of us."

"We accept change and progress," she added. "But what he has done to his home is not progress."

Neighbor Mark Moses said, "This is absolutely not the way we behave in a civilized society."

But Newby persevered, making the case for his zoning change.

A Dollar General store is not far away, he said, and the house across the street from his is empty, its windows shuttered.

To his right is a 17-acre, heavily wooded tract that is for sale. He's certain whoever buys it will argue for rezoning to put in condos or apartments, if not something commercial.

"It's inevitable that some big entity will come in and change that property," he told the council. "You'll have McDonald's next to Dollar General, and then Burger King will want to be across the street."

Eventually, the area will go commercial, he said, and instead of risking a fast-food restaurant or something worse, his proposal would guarantee the corner lot would be a nonobtrusive office occupied only on weekdays.

Newby conceded he is emotional about the house. Another son lived in it for two years, but was killed in a motorcycle accident not far from the site. He said he couldn't bear to clean out the place for a year.

Newby said he finally loaded a trailer with his son's belongings, but the trailer was stolen.

"I want to be done with the house," Newby said.

In the end, Newby conceded Tuesday, the house will be repainted, probably a somber gray with dark shutters.

"I'm not going to leave the house as a spectacle," he said. "We had a little bit of fun with it and ruffled some feathers."

All he wanted, he said, was attention.

He got it.

The council voted unanimously to deny the zoning change request.

Contact staff writer Steve Johnson at sjohnson@timesfree press.com or at 423-757-6673, on Twitter @stevejohnsonTFP or on Facebook at stevejohnsonTFP.


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