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The Fort Oglethorpe City Council has delayed a plan for new houses after some neighbors complained about a potential traffic jam.

Developer Justin Hunt wants to put in 60 homes in the 700 block of Steele Road, across the street from Delray Baptist Church. He told the council during a meeting last week that the houses would each be about 1,500-2,000 square feet.

"They would be pretty nice homes," he said, "a pretty nice subdivision."

But some neighbors told the council that Steele Road has already become too crowded because of other developments in the past 20 years. First there was Briarstone, Sandra Wallace said. Then there was Applebrook and Sunrise Meadows. Now, the small road in the small town gets crowded.

"Traffic is awful," said Daniel Riggins, who lives on Aviation Drive off Steele Road. "In the mornings, going to work, you can wait 15, 20 minutes without moving. Mack Smith [Road, at the end of Steele Road] is backed up. Steele Road is backed up."

But the backed-up cars weren't specifically the issue before the council. Instead, the elected officials were considering two questions. First, should they annex the 18-acre plot from Catoosa County, Ga.? And if so, should they allow Hunt to rezone the land from R-1 to R-5?

Hunt said he needed the second change because he wants to develop homes on 55-foot-wide lots. But R-1 zoning regulations require the lots to be at least 70 feet wide. An R-5 classification would allow him to build more houses.

The council voted to table the annexation issue, however, because of the neighbors' traffic complaints. Councilman Craig Crawford asked for a study showing how many cars now drive up and down Steele Road.

And if the city does not annex the property, the second issue about zoning is moot.

Hunt told the council he could help improve the traffic flow. His father, Thad Hunt, owns 174 acres immediately east of the Steele Road and Mack Smith Road intersection; the Hunts could donate some of the land and let workers install a roundabout or traffic lights.

"I own more property than anybody in the room on Steele Road," Justin Hunt said. "I'm on it more than anybody on Steele Road. I'm on it sometimes 15, 20 times a day. I'd love to see something done to the road. I'd love to see something done to the intersection. That would be wonderful."

Resident Cherise Miller also asked the council why it had not told Catoosa County officials the plan to annex the land.

"We do not have to notify," Mayor Earl Gray told her.

"You don't have to notify?" Miller asked.

"We would not have to notify them if we're annexing a piece of their property."

County Manager Jim Walker said the cities do, in fact, have to tell the county. But the problem Miller raised may just be a formality.

"As a matter of process, the city of Ringgold sends us a letter before they vote to annex," Walker said. "The city of Fort Oglethorpe usually sends us a letter afterwards. I'm not sure if one or both are procedurally correct."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.

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