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This screenshot from a Snow Hill subdivision traffic study shows an area map for a proposed development. / Meyer Transportation Consultants, Inc.

Residents located near a controversial proposed residential development in Ooltewah worry traffic will increase and harm their community if the Hamilton County Commission approves the rezoning of the property.

KSM Developing Co., the developers for the 453-unit proposed development on a parcel of the nearly 200 acres at 6424 Snow Hill Road — now Heritage Farms — have asked the commission to rezone the property from an agricultural to a residential zoning for low-density, single-family homes.

Many residents of Snow Hill Road and the surrounding area showed up to Wednesday's county commission agenda session to oppose the development, arguing the high volume of new residents will have an adverse effect on the neighborhood's character.

"What you choose [next week] will forever change what Snow Hill Road community will be," Melissa Cain, owner of The Gray Dove working farm and wedding venue, which is located across Snow Hill from the proposed development site, said. "Nothing like this is in this area. Please take that into consideration."

Developers initially requested some of the land be rezoned for townhomes, but after opposition from residents in a public meeting in April and a recommendation to deny that request from planning agency staff, the developer amended its request to just an R-1 zoning.

The original plan sought to build 598 units on the property but now includes 453 single-family homes. While the lower number of units only barely exceeds the density already allowed on the property, some community members said they were concerned the rezoning could make room for a larger request at a later time.

"We're trying to do everything to accommodate everybody's wishes, but you're never going to make everybody happy," Developer Billy McCoy told the commission after defending against the comments of five community members. "We've done the traffic studies, we've done the speed studies, we've done everything we can do. We're looking at a 2.27 density with 453 lots. I'm not trying to come back and get 500 lots, 501 lots, 457 lots, I don't care. It's in the resolution and you cannot come back and get 500 lots unless you go through this whole process again."

The commission clarified that the resolution also would apply to any other developer, meaning even if the parcel was sold to another developer, they would be confined to the density stipulations of the resolution.

Commission Chairwoman Sabrena Smedley asked county engineer Todd Leamon for a traffic study on the area, which actually had actually just been completed.

The traffic impact study, submitted to the county Tuesday from Meyer Transportation Consultants Inc. of Chattanooga, indicates an existing traffic problem with the potential of significant additional delays if the development occurs.

"The highest impact is estimated to occur for the residents leaving the development [when it is] fully developed in 2025. There will be considerable delays experienced during the a.m. and p.m. peaks as shown in the discussion above," the report reads, suggesting a two-way, left-turn lane be installed with tapers on either side of each entrance to the subdivision. "This will allow vehicles turning left into the subdivision a safe area to wait for a gap in the traffic and allow the traffic behind the turning vehicle to move through the intersection. It will also allow vehicles exiting the subdivision a place to pause for a gap to develop in the through traffic movement."

The report stated that more than 75% of assessed crashes there involved speeding, adding "further crash analyses should be made to determine if other safety measures are needed on Snow Hill Road."

At the meeting, McCoy said he would consider any lane requirements from the county.

The county commission will vote on the rezoning next Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. in the commission chambers of the Hamilton County Courthouse.

Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at staylor@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @sarahgtaylor.

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