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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / A home is under construction in the Gibson Meadows subdivision in the eastern part of Hamilton County on Feb. 16, 2022. That area is among the fastest growing in the county.

Several hundred homes are slated for a large open tract near Apison as a Chattanooga developer seeks to build one of the biggest residential subdivisions in that area in recent years.

Developer Barry Payne is seeking to rezone about 321 acres off Bill Jones Road from A-1 Agricultural to R-1 Residential, according to the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency.

"It would be one of the larger developments which have occurred in the Apison area," said Mike Price of MAP Engineers, which is supporting Payne's request that's expected to come before the Regional Planning Commission when it meets Monday.

Price said in a telephone interview that the plan is for a detached single-family home development around 3120 Bill Jones Road in east Hamilton County. But he said he didn't know how many new residences would be constructed should the project receive the zoning change. He said the number would be several hundred.

"We haven't got a final plan," he said, noting that with streams, wetlands and required buffers, the total number of new residences is still under study.

Also, the developer is looking at putting in a decentralized sewer system, Price said.

"That requires a certain amount of area be set aside," he said.

In addition, the developer has proposed that a minimum of 10 acres be used as a park area, according to a rezoning application.

The zoning change comes amid a flurry of home-buying activity in Hamilton County over the past few years. Purchasers bought a record number of houses during 2021, figures show, though inflation and higher interest rates this year are weighing on the sector.

Chattanooga's median home price topped $300,000 in March for the first time as a tight inventory of homes on the market pushed up the typical home sale price by 18.5% compared to a year ago, the Greater Chattanooga Realtors association said in a report.

Still, the typical home in Chattanooga sold in only 19 days in March as the inventory of houses for sale in the area dropped by nearly 29% from a year ago, the report showed.

A separate report last December estimated that Chattanooga home prices were projected to rise faster in 2022 than any other metro area in Tennessee.

Robert Backer, the Greater Chattanooga Realtors president, said in a phone interview that the coronavirus put the city on the map as a destination, and that's helping drive the growth in home prices. Backer cited the city's cost of living, proximity to Nashville, Atlanta and the Carolinas, and that Tennessee is a no-income-tax state.

An investor in a planned development near Highway 153 and Highway 58 said in a phone interview last week that nearly 100 new "starter homes" are planned to help first-time buyers or empty nesters get into a residence. He put the price tag for those homes at about $300,000 each with 0% down payment.

Price said the proposed new subdivision in the Apison area likely would be three- and four-bedroom homes with two-and-a-half to three baths. Work on the new homes could start this fall if the project receives the needed approvals, he said.

The developer also is proposing that residential structures not be allowed within 100 feet of the present right of way on Bill Jones Road. But subdivision entrances, utilities, grading activities, stormwater drainage, detention facilities, landscaping, walking trails and other uses shall be allowed in the area, the condition said.

"This will be a large community development in Apison as that area still has quite a bit of demand from people who want to live out that way," he said.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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