Hamilton County Commission kills plan for 184 homes in Ooltewah

Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Finished homes sit next to homes under construction on Highborne Lane in Ooltewah on Wednesday, June 30, 2021.

Republicans on the Hamilton County Commission on Wednesday shot down a $50 million proposal to build 184 houses in Ooltewah.

The 6-3 vote along party lines came a month after the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission approved Jooma Development's plan despite concerns from about a dozen neighbors near the project site, 10444 Ooltewah-Georgetown Road.

Democrats David Sharpe, Katherlyn Geter and Warren Mackey, all of whom represent portions of Chattanooga, voted to approve the plan.

According to Commissioner Greg Martin, R-Hixson, the developer said he could build the project with 10 fewer houses - and without the special zoning approval he had been seeking.

"So let's let him do what he can do and said he would do," Martin said.

(READ MORE: $50 million Ooltewah housing project approved over neighbors' worries)

Mike Price of MAP Engineers, representing the developer, has said that Jooma Development could put up 174 homes on the 92 acres of land under the existing agricultural zoning.

The 184-home plan would have allowed Jooma Development to cover the costs of improvements sought by neighbors, Price said, adding the neighborhood at face value would look the same.

"You'll see a difference without the landscaping and other amenities that have been discussed in my mind," Price said. "I don't know that I'd agree that that's the best for the community."

Debate over the development included talk of wastewater infrastructure and the local sewer system's lack of capacity.

photo Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Finished homes sit next to homes under construction on Highborne Lane in Ooltewah on Wednesday, June 30, 2021.

Under the developer's plan, the community would have used an on-site sewer system that would have allowed for smaller lot sizes.

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Michael Patrick, executive director of the Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority, faced questions about the proposed sewer system.

"[County] Mayor [Jim] Coppinger and I have discussed this, and he is correct in his concern that, if not constructed properly, they can present a significant liability to the county and the [Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority]," Patrick said. "However, when constructed properly, they are an effective solution in areas where conventional wastewater treatment is cost-prohibitive."

Sharpe said the developer's plan for 184 units was more appealing.

"It just made sense to me," Sharpe said. "It's the way the developer wanted to do it. It provided an easily maintainable system that [the Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority] was in approval of."

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At the planning commission's meeting last month, Dean Moorhouse, a county commission candidate who spoke for residents who had doubts about the proposal, said the smaller lot size would lead to high density in a rural area.

That prompted concerns among residents about emergency services and traffic, he said.

Karen Rennich, interim executive director of the Chattanooga Regional Planning Agency, said that the developer would now have to go back to the drawing board if it were to pursue other options such as only building 174 homes.

If that were the case, the developer would need to subdivide the property, which would fall under the discretion of the planning commission, she said.

Contact Logan Hullinger at [email protected] or 814-319-5158. Follow him on Twitter @LoganHullinger.