Public supports building limits on steep slopes, flood plains

Public supports building limits on steep slopes, flood plains

October 30th, 2018 by Judy Walton in Breaking News

To judge from the dozen or so local residents who stepped up to the mic at Tuesday's Chattanooga City Council meeting, local folks are strongly for the idea of regulating development on steep slopes and flood plains.

The event was a public hearing on a study by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency on the impacts of building homes on mountainsides and along creeks. RPA Executive Director John Bridger gave a presentation talking about some of the potential problems, such as stormwater runoff, stream impairment and flooding.

The issue is aggravated by Chattanooga's fast pace of growth, Bridger said.

"Most of the easy land is built on. What's left is either flood plains or steep slopes," he said.

He also reviewed what cities such as Nashville, Knoxville, Asheville and Durham, N.C., have done to address the problems. The cities have taken various paths, ranging from limiting grading or tree removal to incentives for development that preserves landscapes. It's a question of balance, he added.

"Chattanooga is growing as a city. We've got to put housing somewhere," Bridger said.

Many of the residents who stepped up to speak had experienced some of those side effects for themselves.

Tim McDonald, a member of the Community Association of Historic St. Elmo, said neighbors in the valley between Lookout Mountain and a neighboring ridge have seen the problems of land slippage and erosion as development has crawled up the slopes.

"We're asking the city not to acknowledge our land development plan but to follow it," McDonald said.

Jim Folkner said flooding is a growing problem as more and more houses go in on Mountain Creek Road.

An architect said developers need to know what's expected of them.

"If you want something to keep costs down, consistence and knowledge about what you face is the best way to get that," she said.

Another woman noted that Chattanooga brings in a lot of money from people who come here to bike, boat, climb and camp.

"I don't know how to put a price on the value of our green space but it seems pretty enormous," she said, adding, "I don't think we can go wrong with overprotection."

Sylvester Harris, who grew up in East Chattanooga, said he'd like to see the city steer developers to areas closer in to downtown that are in need of redevelopment.

"We're human beings, we can figure this out," Harris said.

Since this was a hearing there was nothing for the council to vote on. Bridger told the crowd to follow developments on the planning agency website.

The council members also noted that the times for next week's agenda session and meeting have beens shifted because of Election Day.

The agenda session is set for 2 p.m. and the voting meeting at 4.