Regional Planning Agency wants input from Chattanoogans on how they want the city to grow

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Against a misty sky, carpenters work in the drizzle on a building in the Borough 33 development at the corner of 33rd and Williams streets on Feb. 15.
Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Against a misty sky, carpenters work in the drizzle on a building in the Borough 33 development at the corner of 33rd and Williams streets on Feb. 15.

As Chattanooga and the surrounding area's population continues to expand, government officials are seeking the public's input on the city's growth and development.

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency, an entity governed by the city and county that develops land use and transportation plans, launched a survey last week to guide its planning for eight areas of the city.

"The survey is kind of part of this initial engagement with the public, with business owners, with any stakeholder, just to get their engagement in the process, get their thoughts," said Dan Reuter, executive director of the Regional Planning Agency, in a phone interview.

Chattanooga's planning areas

— Downtown/North Chattanooga.

— Hixson/Red Bank.

— Historic River-to-Ridge.

— South Chattanooga/Lookout Mountain.

— Lookout Valley.

— Brainerd/East Ridge.

— Highway 58/Tyner.

— East Brainerd.

Source: Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency

The online survey, known as the Plan Chattanooga survey, asks for participants to pick one of the eight areas and rate it on eight different metrics: equity, land use, housing, economic development, transportation, natural resources, health and parks and greenways. Under each rating, those taking the survey can specify improvements they want to see under each topic.

"It could be something as diverse as parks, from where should we extend sewer to what kinds of development or zoning should be in different parts of the city or the county," Reuter said. "It's really intended to be comprehensive."

(READ MORE: How Chattanooga's growth drowns out the night sky for stargazers)

The survey also allows participants to pinpoint feedback to the neighborhood and street level. Participants can identify five different places, at specific addresses, that they think should be improved or preserved as the city and county continue to grow.

"That's the intention," Reuter said. "Trying to get a little more specific and a little more geography as part of this."

Reuter said, as of Friday, at least 100 people have participated in the survey. He said he's hopeful that a few thousand will ultimately participate.

Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly said in a phone interview that he wants responses throughout each part of the city, a few hundred in each council district.

The survey can be completed online or be printed and filled out on paper and submitted in-person or via physical mail to the Regional Planning Agency office at Suite 2000 at 1250 Market St. in Chattanooga.

The city's survey, which closes Sept. 15, is specifically for Chattanooga and not the wider county. A separate survey for unincorporated areas of Hamilton County is expected to launch by the end of this week, Reuter said. He said planning is distinct between the city and the county as there are two different consultant teams for each.

Starting next month, Reuter said there will be more official meetings on plan development for each area in the city.

"What's going to happen as we go further in the coming months is, we will begin to describe what kinds of things we think we should consider in terms of growth and the future of Chattanooga and Hamilton County," Reuter said.

In recent years, plans for the Historic River-to-Ridge and East Brainerd areas have already been completed, but Reuter said feedback from the survey will still inform any potential amendments the Regional Planning Agency may want to make to those plans.


Outreach

Beyond the survey, Reuter said staff will attend meetings in each of Chattanooga's neighborhoods over the next month.

"It's hard to get to folks," Reuter said. "Social media is important, but there's people that don't use social media, so we're trying to do everything we can from meeting people in their own neighborhood meetings to anything else we can come up with."

The first meeting for the Plan Chattanooga Advisory Committee, Reuter said in an email, is scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 15 at the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce offices.

(READ MORE: Clarksville poised to overtake Chattanooga's spot as fourth-most populous city in Tennessee by 2024)


Equity

Kelly said in a phone interview that results from the survey will be used to inform the city's One Chattanooga plan, which pushes for "a vision of a community where all Chattanoogans can thrive and prosper," according to the text of the plan.

"We have the opportunity to plan," Kelly said, "really thoughtfully and to get it right. Equity is a huge part of that."

According to a June report from the Unity Group of Chattanooga, a nonprofit organization based in the city, growth in the past hasn't benefited all Chattanoogans. The report outlines how Black residents in the city have been displaced from Chattanooga's historically Black neighborhoods in recent years.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga group fears One Westside plan will spur displacement of African Americans)

Reuter said that equity is part of the planning process through the survey.

"One of the ways we try to address issues of equity, be it through investments or some other aspect of how the city grows, is through an effort like this," Reuter said. "We're trying to bring in a lot of city resources, a lot of good thinking, trying to bring in everybody in the city, every smart person or person with an idea, really trying to advance the entire city as much as we can."

Contact Ben Sessoms at bsessoms@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

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