Catoosa County Commission denies request for zoning change to build extra houses on South Wooten Road

Catoosa County Commission denies request for zoning change to build extra houses on South Wooten Road

September 21st, 2017 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

RINGGOLD, Ga. — Where a landowner and a builder see a handful of new houses, neighbors see the destruction of their way of life — and their mother's way of life, and their grandmother's way of life, and so on.

Vicki Capehart, who has claim to 3 1/2 acres on South Wooten Road west of Graysville, Ga., plans to develop her property into a collection of homes. The land now is zoned R-1, allowing her to build. But she wanted the Catoosa County Commission to reclassify the property as R-3. That, developer Dennis King said during a commission meeting Tuesday night, would allow them to put more houses on the land.

Right now, Capehart and King can build seven houses. They wanted to push that number up to 11.

Enter the neighbors, stage right.

"This is country, where we're at," said Glenda Johnson, of 207 S. Wooten Road, who has lived there for 57 years. "Or it was. That's how we want to continue."

She purchased the house from her aunt. Her grandsons like to play in the gardens and ride go-karts in the open fields. They like to shoot guns, too, as she did when she was a kid. But she worries all the rural fun is going to stop, what with the new homes rising behind hers.

Catoosa County Commissioners Ray Johnson and Jim Cutler listen to speakers during a work session Monday, July 31, 2017, at the Catoosa County Colonnade in Ringgold, Ga. The Catoosa County Commission, Ringgold City Council and Fort Oglethorpe City Council held an Intergovernmental Work Session to discuss how to divide sales tax revenue, the state of the county jail and more.

Catoosa County Commissioners Ray Johnson and Jim Cutler...

Photo by Erin O. Smith

"We're tearing up what we figure is a generation of land for our family," Johnson said. "And we're going to pass this on to my three grandsons. If we wanted to build homes, we would have already built homes. We wouldn't have horses and cows and goats."

Said Crystal Fairchild, of 215 S. Wooten Road: "It gets pretty stinky in July when you have hogs. I don't intend on getting rid of my animals, my chickens, my turkeys or my guns. I don't want one house [behind me]. I don't want seven houses. I don't want 14 houses. I don't want any houses."

Fairchild said the area already attracts too much traffic, with people traveling through nearby Ringgold Road on their way to and from East Ridge. Her husband, Keith Fairchild, called the proposed project "crackerjack houses." He said the new homes idea "basically wrecks your whole life."

Another neighbor, Terry Bowling, of 103 and 155 S. Wooten Road, said he has lived there for 62 years. And for his whole life, his family has kept farm animals. Right now, he has 35 horses. He said he fears new neighbors and their wily children, who might wander off their property onto his, sticking their arms and heads where they don't belong.

What happens when the horses bite?

"Somebody could get hurt," Bowling said. "I want somebody to explain to me what my liability is here. Because it's changing my whole life up."

The county's planning commission approved King's and Capehart's rezoning request on Aug. 22 in a 3-2 vote. But the county commission had the final say. After hearing the objections, King argued that those are the typical complaints of progress.

"I understand everyone is upset about it," he said. "Development's hard. But the county needs growth. We got to have housing. There's not enough housing going around."

King's argument was of no use. The commissioners voted 4-1 against the rezoning request, with Chairman Steve Henry the lone objection. Commissioner Jim Cutler, who oversees South Wooten Road's district, said he made his decision based on the complaints of his constituents, the people whom he says he was elected to serve.

At the end of the meeting, Commissioner Bobby Winters chided the elected officials for not granting the request, although he himself did not make a motion to adopt it or object when others moved to deny it.

"Man, [King] got railroaded," Winters said. "I mean, these people standing up, saying they shoot guns. They don't shoot guns across that property right now."

King, meanwhile, said he plans to build the seven houses he and Capehart are allowed.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.


Correction: A previous version of this story said Glenda Johnson inherited her home from her aunt. She actually bought the home from her aunt.