A 453-home development off Snow Hill Road is planned for the growing Ooltewah area, but it has been met with resistance by several residents and business owners in the area concerned about added traffic and infrastructure problems.
The development by KSM Developing Company came before the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission this week for a parcel of the nearly 200 acres at 6424 Snow Hill Road — currently Heritage Farms — to be rezoned from an agricultural to a residential zoning for low-density single-family homes.
The developer was originally requesting 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 their request to just an R-1 zoning. The original plan submitted showed a proposed 598 units for the land, but commissioners gave a recommendation to approve the rezoning for just the planned 453 single-family homes.
"I would just like to say that I hope that some concerns have been alleviated by the fact that we are not seeking the (townhomes) anymore and we are respectfully requesting R-1," said Kelli Richardson from LDA Engineering, speaking for the developer at the commission meeting.
A handful of residents turned out to the meeting on Monday to voice their concerns and several others emailed their opposition to commissioners beforehand. All of those who spoke at the meeting were still under the impression that the developer was asking for townhomes on the land.
Eileen Delaney, a resident who lives off Snow Hill Road, wrote to commissioners, stating the two-lane road with no sidewalks and few side streets feeds into Mountain View Road, which then "bottlenecks" at the Old Lee Highway intersection. Several residents cited sewage capacity concerns for the area.
"What a mess at rush hour and school dismissal!" she wrote. "Exit 11 just completed an overhaul to handle the traffic to Ooltewah but can it really handle approximately another 1,000 cars every day? I don't think Ooltewah's infrastructure is ready for this. Schools are overcrowded and fire services are volunteer."
Among those who spoke against the development at the meeting was the lawyer for the owners of The Gray Dove at 6408 Snow Hill Road, just south of the proposed development.
The Gray Dove is a 26-acre working farm and wedding and event venue owned by the Cain family. The family's lawyer stated the remoteness and natural beauty of the area is what attracts most of their clients to the venue. Many other residents said they didn't want to see the natural beauty of the undeveloped land go away.
Scott Lanford, vice president of purchasing and global sourcing at Miller Industries, also emailed in opposition before the meeting, stating he is not against growth but in favor of doing it responsibly. Miller Industries is located about 2.5 miles south of the proposed development.
"While I am the last person to believe that others should be able to dictate what one does with their own personal property, I am also realistic enough to know that adding the number of residences proposed for this site is not a smart or prudent move," he wrote.
Lanford wrote that Snow Hill Road is at its limit, or past it, dealing with the current amount of traffic.
"Not to mention the sewage issues already being dealt with in the area and potential water runoff into Claudes Creek, which will cause even more potential flooding for those downstream," he said.
The site plan by LDA Engineering shows a proposed density of no more than 2.27 units per acre with no building in the floodplain area except for two roadway crossings. There are two entrances proposed with one each off of Snow Hill and Mountain View roads.
There are approximately 55 acres of green space included, according to the plan. Richardson said the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority, or WWTA, has already approved the developer's initial request for capacity, too.
"I would also like to say that WWTA has already approved our initial request for capacity based on the fact that the executive director Mike Patrick states there are multiple projects already in the works at various stages that will alleviate capacity issues and actually reroute some of the flow, so that by the time these houses are coming on line, that capacity issue is not going to be a problem," she said.
Richardson and LDA Engineering did not return a request for comment on what the total cost of the development or cost of the homes will be once built.
Commissioner Chris Mabee said the infrastructure and traffic concerns raised by residents are "legitimate concerns," but that those concerns are not isolated to just that section of the county.
"Those are things we are facing countywide," he said. "What we are also facing is a housing shortage, and that is something that this body and along with county commission and city council have to consider. I'd like to also commend the applicant for working with the community and obviously making concessions from (townhomes). I think that was probably not the right fit for this area, but I do believe that an R-1 product could be a good fit there, and I'd like to see the discussions continue between the applicant and the residents."
Another public meeting for residents to give input will be held before it goes up for a vote at the Hamilton County Commission. Details on when and where the meeting will be held have not yet been decided.
Contact staff writer Allison Shirk Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org, @AllisonSCollins or 423-757-6651.