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This story was updated at 3:55 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, to clarify the voting records of a Feb. 18 meeting.

Two contested subdivision rezonings in Catoosa County that brought residents out in force over traffic concerns split the board last week's meeting.

The first, a single-family home development near Westside Elementary School, received a 3-2 approval vote after the developer submitted new plans that move the entrance.

The request — to change a 23-acre lot from A-1 agriculture to Planned Unit Development in order to allow for 19 single-family homes on Sutton Avenue and 64 on North Avenue — was approved by the Catoosa County Board of Commissioners Feb. 18. Chairman Steven Henry and commissioners Jim Cutler and Jeff Long voting in favor and commissioners Chuck Harris and Charlie Stephens voting no.

(MORE: Catoosa County Commission receives a flurry of rezoning requests for single-family residential)

Before the vote, Catoosa residents living on both Sutton and North avenues used the public comment portion of the meeting to express their concern about how the new development would affect traffic on the narrow roads.

Meetings now streamed for free

In the past, to have access to video and audio recordings of the board of commissioners meetings, residents needed to contact UCTV, which charged $25 for video or $5 for audio.

After residents raised concerns, all future public meetings and an archive of previous meetings will be uploaded to the Catoosa County YouTube channel and be available at catoosa.com, beginning with the Feb. 18 meeting.

"I'm saying I would like [the developer] to really seriously consider what [they're] going to do with those roads before any development is considered on this property," said Elizabeth Pace, who lives about half a mile from the elementary school.

The proposed development is located along a county road 17 feet in width. County law requires that if more than three lots are being developed, the developer must upgrade the roads connecting to the development to 20 feet across.

Developer Emerson Russell Jr., of Lee Parkway Properties Trust, said at the board's meeting on Feb. 18 that he would commit to this during the planning phases.

Last November, the planning commission denied his rezoning request 4-1, citing traffic concerns and a burden on the school system. The denial prompted Lee Parkway to submit new designs which relocated the entrance from Sutton and North avenues to Walker Road and North Avenue.

In December, the board sent the amended request back to the planning commission to consider at its Jan. 28 meeting. The updated plan was unanimously approved by the planning commission with several conditions: 50 feet between buildings, exclusively single-family homes, a 10-foot side and 25-foot front setback from the road, and limited access to North and Sutton avenues.

"I've always tried to be compassionate to our neighbors," Russell said on Dec. 19, after the plans were resubmitted. "I've had my engineers look into ways to make everything flow better for the community."

At its Feb. 18 meeting, the board also approved the rezoning of a 19.6-acre property on South Wooten Road and Highway 41 from A-1 to RTZ (medium-density residential) for an 87-unit independent-living subdivision for seniors.

Engineer Mike Price, of Chattanooga-based MAP Engineers, said the units would cost somewhere in the range of $210,000 to $220,000 and be targeted to those age 55 and up. The development will also include a clubhouse and amenities, applicant Alexander Smith said at the Feb. 18 meeting.

The planning commission unanimously approved the rezoning request in January under the conditions that the development include a 40-foot setback on South Wooten Road, a privacy fence or buffer on the north side of the property, and a cluster mailbox for the 87 homes.

Both at the planning and board of commissioners meetings, residents came out in force to oppose the senior development, citing traffic concerns when South Wooten gets backed up during rush hour due to its proximity to Highway 41.

Price said that since the development is so close to Highway 41 (about 300 feet), residents would not be traveling the road.

Residents also expressed concern over how the development may affect their agriculture businesses. One resident who has neighboring property said that the developer needs to acknowledge that the community would be near pre-existing farms and that those landowners do not want to hear smell or noise complaints from future residents.

Cutler's motion to deny the rezoning passed with Henry and Long voting in opposition.

Email Sabrina Bodon at sbodon@timesfreepress.com

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