East Brainerd residents sound off on traffic, over-development as building moratorium raised

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Contractors are busy completing homes in Westview Crossing off of East Brainerd Road. Some 300 East Brainerd residents met with city, county and state officials last week about over-development and traffic issues.

Some 300 East Brainerd residents, many fed up with clogged roads and worried about over-development with more home building on the way, have met with key city, Hamilton County and state officials.

The idea of a building moratorium on new homes was raised by one resident to the applause of many at last week's community meeting, though Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said such action is unlikely.

"We understand we're growing too fast," he told residents at Morris Hill Baptist Church, adding the Tennessee Department of Transportation has to address some of the problem. "We need to continue to work together."

According to county planners, as many as 1,100 more residences already are approved in the East Brainerd area.

Kile Prescott of Apison said he's concerned about a lot of houses coming in and what that's doing to traffic, noting there are long backups in East Brainerd at times of the day.

"They haven't had a plan," he said. "We keep putting houses in."

Gerry Bosworth, who lives in the Holly Hills area of East Brainerd, said her main issue is traffic, especially on Jenkins Road.

She said that along with growth, there has to be "careful planning. It has to be with planning in mind."

Mark Hancock, also of Apison, said he's worried about the impact of more development on roads, sewers and schools. Now, he said, the county is considering making lot sizes smaller.

"I'm not against growth," he said. "Do it right."

Last month, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission recommended approval of proposed changes to single-family zoning regulations permitting smaller lot sizes and reduced front and rear setbacks to increase density.

"We're battling major home shortages in the county and the city," said Chris Mabee, a member of the panel, about the measure that's expected to come before the Hamilton County Commission on July 21 for its consideration.

County Commissioner Sabrena Smedley, R-Ooltewah, who represents much of the East Brainerd area, cited a recent zoning meeting in Apison.

"It was very apparent that the community was really concerned about roads and schools filled," she said, notably citing the intersection of East Brainerd and Ooltewah-Ringgold roads. Smedley said there are four different schools that figure into that junction.

"When school starts back up, we'll be locked up again," she said. "I'm asking for some type of relief. I'm going to keep begging for that. I've voted against some projects. We need help."

One resident said that if 1,100 more homes are built, that likely means roughly 4,400 more people added to East Brainerd. He wondered how the area will handle all the additional sewage.

Another resident said people who live in the area don't want high-density development.

"We don't want the county to turn into the city," he said.

Still another resident said he wasn't asking for a full moratorium on home building but "a little bit of a slowdown."

State Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said the state and Hamilton County are increasingly popular places to live and the challenge is to keep up with infrastructure.

He mentioned ongoing work to widen East Brainerd Road but noted it's a seven- to 10-year project.

"It takes time to do that," Watson said, adding that officials have had the state transportation commissioner come to Hamilton County to see road problems.

Chattanooga City Councilman Darrin Ledford, who represents the area, told the group that it's important to have their input as a land-use plan is conducted by planners.

"Your input will drive zoning decisions," he said.

Ledford said if the new measure regarding smaller lot sizes is endorsed by officials, it would affect only new home site proposals and not those already approved.

Chattanooga businessman Greg Vital, a Republican running for the state House seat that was held by the late Mike Carter, said infrastructure is important and he would work with the rest of the legislative delegation for funding if elected.

"The city, county and state need to work together," he said.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.