Graphic contributed by Walker County Government / A mock-up of a multipurpose development to be located off of Happy Valley Road in Walker County, for which construction is slated to begin in 2021.

A recently approved multipurpose development will be coming to Walker County in the near future, bringing with it retail locations, green spaces and hundreds of new homes just off of Happy Valley Road.

The project, submitted by Chattanooga-based Hagaman Construction, first required rezoning. The request to change the 167-acre property from C-1 restricted commercial zone to a planned-unit development was approved by the county's planning commission and Sole County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield in late October.

Construction is now slated to begin in 2021.

The plans call for up to 550 homes which will be priced in the $200,000-$300,000 range. The residential portion of the development will include sidewalks, streetlights, hiking trails, green spaces, a dog park and a playground with a pavilion, according to a news release from the county.

Each house will sit on a lot no smaller than 4,800 square feet.

"What we're planning here is a nice, walkable community," construction company President Ben Hagaman said in the release. "Although there will be a lot of houses, there's still a lot of green spaces around it."

While 2020 may have brought many downturns, it has been a standout year compared to the past decade for housing development in the county, with 138 individual home permits filed so far, according to Walker County Public Relations Director Joe Legge.

Hagaman's development "puts us on a path for record housing growth in 2021," he said in an email.

For Robert Wardlaw, director of Economic and Community Development for Walker, that is welcome news. He believes the county is an "attractive" place to live but could use a variety of new investments in the housing arena to draw new residents in different stages of life.

"It has been a number of years since we have had a residential development investment of this scope on the north end of the county," he said regarding the new project. "I believe it's an important first step in a smart, balanced approach to continued economic and quality-of-life enhancements for all of Walker County."

Although Hagaman said the commercial aspects are still in the very early planning stages as they initially focus on residential areas, Wardlaw is already looking forward to what is to come.

"The thing I'm most excited about is the retail component of this development," Wardlaw said. "Because when you get retail services to restaurants, groceries, it enhances quality of life for people that live there. And they kind of feed off of each other — economic development comes from quality of life and quality of life comes from economic development."

While he said most feedback so far has been positive, one of the main considerations Wardlaw has heard from the public is how increases in housing and population will affect the area's traffic patterns.

"The one thing that citizens ask us to look at carefully is the effect on traffic in the area, which is a very legitimate and fair thing for us all to be concerned about," said Wardlaw. "We did the studies in collaboration with the Georgia Department of Transportation and their consultants for ideas not just for this but for future development."

Throughout the process of solidifying specific details and ideas for the development, both Hagaman and Wardlaw said they have enjoyed collaborating to bring new housing opportunities to Walker County.

"They were great to work with," Hagaman said of county officials. "And you know, they mentioned some things that they wanted as far as, you know, maybe some streetlights or 'Hey, we don't want one of those neighborhoods where a car hangs out in the street.' 'We want sidewalks.'

"We were able to work together and kind of come up with a plan that they were happy with and we were pretty happy with as well."

Wardlaw expressed similar sentiments.

"He's been a real pro through this process, very transparent," he said of Hagaman. "We always appreciate working with folks that are forthright in what they want to do."

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