$100 million project OK’d by planners for new homes, shops in Ooltewah

Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Finished homes sit next to a residence under construction on Highborne Lane in Ooltewah in 2021. The Ooltewah-Collegedale area is seeing an array of planned homebuilding.

A Hamilton County panel Monday endorsed what's pegged as a more than $100 million residential and commercial project in Ooltewah over opposition from a couple of neighbors who expressed traffic and other concerns.

The development by Knoxville-based Turner Homes, one of the largest proposed in the county this year, would offer residences from the low $300,000 range to $1 million each, said Chris Jessen, who works for the homebuilder.

The first phase would build single-family detached homes in the $500,000 to $650,000 range, he said in an interview after a meeting of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission.

While still needing approval from the Hamilton County Commission, the 269-unit project would include 62 townhomes at the Ooltewah-Georgetown and McDade roads area on a 70-acre tract, said Mike Price of MAP Engineers, who represented the developer.

The development group won the OK for a commercial center on the site of no more than 30,000 square feet of space.

Price said a market study showed about $220 million in retail sales already in the nearby area, and the project's commercial space such as dentist and doctor offices, restaurants and a coffee shop would keep some motorists from traveling further to access goods and services.

"We're not Cambridge Square," he added, citing the large commercial center in Ooltewah.

About 50 acres of the project parcel already had been approved for residences, and the developer sought the OK of the larger project from planners Monday.

Kim Helton, who lives in the area, told the panel the planned project will increase traffic.

"Traffic already is really bad there," she said. "Whatever they put there will draw people to the area. It will increase traffic even further. We enjoy going to Cambridge Square."

(READ MORE: Ooltewah growing pains cited)

Another neighbor, too, cited traffic worries, calling it terrible.

Helton said the approval of the commercial space is "spot zoning" and shouldn't be allowed, adding it will set a precedent in the area. She called for a traffic study to be done for the proposal.

Price said a traffic study is planned.

Earlier this year, another developer of a 102-acre vacant parcel off Hunter Road in Ooltewah withdrew a rezoning request to build nearly 300 homes amid worries by some neighbors and political leaders over traffic, school overcrowding and other issues.

However, GreenTech Homes plans to move ahead to construct 200 homes at 8209 Bell Mill Road, which existing zoning permits, an official said.

Friction has heightened between East Hamilton County residents and developers amid increased population and traffic in the area versus meeting housing needs.

In Hamilton County, a yearlong planning initiative has started that will devise a blueprint to guide future growth, officials said earlier this year.

(READ MORE: Hamilton County taking on planning effort)

Planners and political leaders wrestling with population increases, traffic, sewers, public education and other issues in the unincorporated parts of the county in what was called a first-of-its-kind effort.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.