About 70 people attended a community meeting Monday evening to discuss a 453-home development off Snow Hill Road in Ooltewah where a majority of the residents voiced concerns to District 9 Commissioner Chester Bankston about the developer's desires for the area.
Several residents are concerned about added traffic on the two-lane county road, overcapacity in schools and infrastructure that can't handle the current growth the area is already experiencing. A petition against the development and its rezoning has garnered over 1,300 signatures on Change.org.
Residents Monday questioned how the developer and/or Hamilton County is going to account for 453 added homes and the cars and people that will come with them.
"It has been going backwards," said area resident Donna Moss about the rezoning process. "You need four lanes on Hunter and Snow Hill roads. The schools aren't large enough for all these people. All of this that has to be done — should be done — before the building."
The development by KSM Developing Company and developer Billy McCoy came before the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission last 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. Part of the property to be developed is already zoned R-1.
McCoy 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 planning commissioners gave a recommendation to the Hamilton County Commission to approve the rezoning for just the planned 453 single-family homes last week.
A handful of residents turned out to the planning commission meeting 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.
There was confusion among residents at Monday's meeting about whether or not it would be better for county commissioners to approve the rezoning request to R-1 or deny it and leave it at A-1. On an A-1 property, the developer could still build two units per acre. On R-1, the developer could build approximately four units per acre, but there would be stricter requirements for building than on an A-1 property, according to the regional planning agency.
"We can't stop them from building there," Bankston said. "It's there property, they have the right."
While they could build more homes under an R-1 zoning, the revised site plan provided by LDA Engineering and McCoy 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.
Kelli Richardson with LDA Engineering said the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority, or WWTA, has already approved the developer's initial request for sewer capacity, too.
Some residents asked about entrances into the development and if there were any major road projects planned for the area to widen it to three or four lanes. Bankston said there weren't, and Richardson said that Hamilton County engineering staff won't meet with them until the rezoning goes through.
"We have not done anything on engineering yet — we are just trying to get through the rezoning process," Richardson said Monday.
McCoy did attend the meeting but left most of the talking to Richardson and did not wish to add any comments after the meeting. A resident asked if he would still buy the property if the rezoning request was denied by the Hamilton County Commission in June.
"If I do, it will be a totally different use on the A-1 side," he said.
The topic of impact fees, which would require the developer to pay for some of the added infrastructure costs, came up at the meeting. But Hamilton County does not require developers to pay impact fees. Requiring developers to pay impact fees would require a vote by county residents.
Bankston said after the Monday meeting that the Roads, Waste, Energy, Transportation and Zoning Committee he chairs will hear the case at their June 12 meeting, but he will recommend the commission denies the rezoning based off of residents' concerns Monday.
The Hamilton County Commission will vote on the proposed zoning change at their June 19 commission meeting. Residents can attend and provide comments at both meetings.
Contact staff writer Allison Shirk Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org, @AllisonSCollins or 423-757-6651.