Continuing its push toward a more attractive business district, the city of East Ridge recently passed an ordinance that officials hope will also make the city more pedestrian-friendly.

The ordinance, which passed unanimously at the Sept. 26 East Ridge City Council meeting, will require new businesses within the business district to have a minimum setback of five feet from the road. Assistant City Manager Kenny Custer said this would allow businesses to have rear parking and would make the city more walkable.

The city has already received several grants to pay for sidewalks along Kingwood Drive to McBrien Road. And there are plans to apply for over $1 million in grant money in the upcoming year for sidewalks along Ringgold Road, said Custer.

Over the past few years, the city has adopted and updated various ordinances to create a standard for how the business district will look in the future, setting standards for building requirements, signs and zonings, Custer said.

At the Sept. 26 meeting, the council also unanimously passed an ordinance to clarify that Airbnb stays in East Ridge qualify for the hotel occupancy tax. The Municipal Technical Advisory Services, which counsels governments statewide, recommended that the city make this clarification since the original ordinance didn't specifically outline short-term rentals and bed-and-breakfast establishments as falling under the tax.

Currently, there are eight short-term rentals in the city and zero true bed-and-breakfast homes, Custer said, adding that the city has already contacted each of them regarding the new tax. Moving forward, when a resident lists their home on a website for short-term rental stays, the city will contact them to ensure they fill out the proper permits and meet zoning requirements, he said.

In other business, the city is sponsoring the annual Tennessee River Rescue cleanup. Over the event's 31 years, volunteers have removed 479 tires, 53 shopping carts and 31,000 pounds of solid waste in the form of plastics and Styrofoam from Spring Creek, according to event coordinator Larry Clark.

On Saturday, Oct. 5, community members are again invited to join the effort to remove debris from area waterways. Volunteers will fan out from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Since the team started keeping track, over 700 volunteers, some from as far as Nashville, have come out to help, Clark said.

Volunteers can expect all the tools needed, including gloves, trash bags and pickers, as well as water, snacks and a T-shirt. A portion from a $2,000 environmental grant from Tennessee American Water will go toward the local cleanup effort and also toward bank stabilization along the creek at Camp Jordan.

Volunteers should meet behind Parkridge East Hospital to sign up day-of, said Clark.

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