RINGGOLD, Ga. — Paul "Natureboy" Lee, a local business owner and wrestler, tried to lay the smackdown on the Catoosa County Planning Commission on Tuesday night. But sometimes, the smacker becomes the smackee.
The planning board denied Lee's request last month to rezone a small lot at 13310 U.S. Highway 41 from residential to commercial. Lee wants to use the property, about eight-tenths of an acre, as a car lot or for miniature storage units. But the planning commission said the plan doesn't match the code for that area, located in the south end of the county.
Lee then presented the plan to county commissioners, who have the power to override the planning commission. He pointed that businesses are open a mile down the road, in Whitfield County.
"I'm not trying to put it on some side street or something," he said, wearing a tight blue T-shirt and sunglasses. "It's on Highway 41."
But Director of Planning and Inspections James Davis told the elected officials that the county's comprehensive plan, last updated in 2016, calls for the area to remain a rural neighborhood. Commissioners Steven Henry, Ray Johnson and Jeff Long sided with the planning board and voted 3-0 to deny Lee's request.
County Commissioner Bobby Winters, who often sides with property owners against the county plan for a zone, did not vote either way. Commissioner Jim Cutler was absent.
"I understand it's [Highway] 41," Henry said after the meeting, adding that he visited the site before Tuesday's meeting. "It's nothing but a nice, neat residential community there right now."
Lee bought the small property for $28,000 in 2013, according to the county's property appraiser. It features a 780-square-foot home with white siding. Lee said he planned to turn around and sell the land. Then he thought it could be used for a business opportunity.
If he opened a storage unit business, he said, he would put about 30 units on the property. He said he has operated a business like that before and believes it would not disturb a way of life in the rural community. He also planned to install shrubs around the units to make it look prettier.
"It never has a lot of traffic," he said of the business.
He said the business would fill a need for the area between downtown Ringgold and Tunnel Hill.
If he didn't build the storage units, he would pave the front of the small lot and hold between six and 10 vehicles there for one of his other businesses, Budget Sales Used Autos.
Lee owns multiple businesses in the area, including Turnbuckle Fitness at 5833 U.S. Highway 41. He also tried to run for mayor in Ringgold in 2015, but election officials removed him from the ballot after opponents argued he doesn't primarily reside within city limits.
Also Tuesday, the commissioners approved developer Todd Queen's plan to build a roundabout at the intersection of Warren and Pine Grove roads. Queen is building the Pine Lakes subdivision there and agreed to upgrade the road.
In addition, Queen is building a landscaped area in the middle of the roundabout, a community lot and a gate. Queen and the neighborhood's homeowner's association will be responsible for keeping up the landscaping.
Lisa Guerrini, who lives in front of the future roundabout site, told the commissioners she was concerned because she had not seen how the road will look. After she reviewed the copy of the plan Tuesday night, she said she did not object. She believes it will be safer than the current roads.
School buses drop off and pick up in the area. Some drivers fail to slow down, she said.
"It will be much better this way," she said. "You will have more kids in that neighborhood. So that's a plus, right there."
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.