A year after tornadoes ripped through East Brainerd, dozens of homeowners are still repairing their storm-damaged houses.
While many residents off of Holly Hills Road and Shallowmeade Road Lane are rebuilding, a Chattanooga developer is planning to build a new $30 million development nearby amid the tornado damage on what had been a wooded creek area prior to last year's tornadoes. Developer Guy Cherwonuk, a partner in Paces Ferry Builders, is seeking permission to build a planned unit development off of Jenkins Road in East Brainerd
Known as Brooke Meadow, the proposed 16-acre development will include 36 single-family homes and 42 townhomes along both sides of the Mackey Branch creek.
"We want to work with the neighborhood and elected officials to address their needs and concerns, but we'd like to get the rezoning and start building immediately," Cherwonuk said after meeting with East Brainerd residents Friday night.
The developer said he wants to create a community that appeals to both young families and seniors with homes built in a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood with sidewalks, greenways and a nearby community pool that he hopes to support to help reopen.
The Holly Hills pool and clubhouse, which is owned by the Holly Hills Community Club Inc., were damaged during the tornado and have yet to be rebuilt. But Cherwonuk said he hopes to work with the community and pool supporters to provide both initial and ongoing financial support for rebuilding and operating an even bigger pool.
Although Cherwonuk's firm was initially cited for not securing permits for some of its work around the Mackey Branch creek, the developer said his company has tried to clean up the debris that was dumped into the creek by the tornado and he pledged to meet all environmental standards for the stream restoration as the development progresses. He also promises to plant more trees to help restore more of the vegetation that was topped when the tornado hit the area on Easter night in 2020.
"We know the devastating impacts the tornadoes had on this community and the number of trees that were destroyed," Cherwonuk told the Holly Hills residents. "That's why we're committed to planting more trees so that in 20 years we can have the kind of community we once had again."
Holly Hills residents had mixed reactions to the proposed development during a community meeting Friday night in East Brainerd.
"It's going to be a nightmare," said Pat Lawson, who said she just moved back into her home after making repairs following the April 202o tornado. "You cannot get out on Jenkins Road, especially during rush hour."
Adding more traffic on Holly Hills Road and Shallowmeade Lane will create even more traffic problems, Lawson and other homeowners said.
Ben Johnston, a 50-year resident in Holly Hills, also complained that building along Mackey branch which often floods during springtime rains will create flood problems in the new development and on surrounding properties, including his own.
"Water drainage has always been a problem in Holly Hills," he said. "I'm not against development, but you shouldn't do it in a floodplain."
Cherwonuk, a Georgia Tech-trained engineer who has worked in real estate his entire career, said any flood runoff problems will have to be addressed to gain regulatory approval for his project. He said the traffic problem shouldn't be that great because many of the homes in his development are targeted for seniors or at-home remote workers.
"These are not traditional workers adding to the traffic at 8 a.m. every morning," he said.
"We want to create homes for every stage of life," he said. "We'll offer built-in home offices for working from home and homeschooling. Optional elevators will also allow residents to age in place."
Roshonda Woods,, another resident who spoke during the Friday night community meeting, said she is encouraged by the prospects of the developer cleaning up the storm damages, planting more trees and redeveloping the neighborhood with assistance to help reopen the Holly Hills community pool.
"Holly Hills is a great area and a great subdivision and I think it's time that we rebuild from the devastation of last year," she said.
Jessica Fields, whose husband grew up in the Holly Hills neighborhood and they are now raising their own family there, said she hopes that the new development will help revitalize the storm-damaged area.
"I think the Holly Hills and surrounding area just need a new refreshing sense of hope and I think that's important right now," she said.
The proposed planned unit development will be considered by the Chattanooga/Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission on May 10 and then must be voted upon by both the Chattanooga City Council and the Hamilton County Commission because the property is both in the city of Chattanooga regulated by the City Council and in part of the unincorporated part of the county regulated by the Hamilton County Commission.
Paces Ferry Builders has previously developed subdivisions and built homes in both Georgia and Tennessee, including in Council Fire in East Brainerd where Cherwonuk lives and at Brow Creek on Signal and Wild Ridge on Signal Mountain.
Contact Dave Flessner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6340.