Editor's note: With nine districts represented on the Hamilton County Commission and the Chattanooga City Council, it may be hard to keep up with everything going on with both bodies. To make it easier to read some of the district and neighborhood-specific news, the Times Free Press is starting a series of weekly stories focusing on one district at a time. In this first district spotlight, District 1 County Commissioner Randy Fairbanks and District 1 City Councilman Chip Henderson discuss growth and development in their respective communities.
County Commission District 1
Fairbanks represents Soddy-Daisy, Sale Creek and the rest of the northernmost district in Hamilton County, where he says growth and construction are moving at a rate unlike anything he's seen in his time on the commission.
"We've got more going on in terms of major projects in district one than we have in a number of years," Fairbanks said. "It's a really exciting time for the district."
Fairbanks said the district is especially excited for its continuing growth, the new $900,000 track at Soddy-Daisy High School that is about to be used for its first full track season, and improvements to local walking trails.
One of the things coming up that Fairbanks said he is most excited about is revisiting the Rails to Trails project, a proposed six-mile walking and biking path in the place of obsolete railroad tracks in the northern part of the county.
"There are a lot of railroads and tracks up where the railroad used to run up and around Soddy-Daisy and they don't use that anymore, so a group from the Tennessee Valley Authority, Soddy-Daisy and Hamilton County got together and talked about pulling that track up and making a walking track like the [Tennessee Riverwalk], but it failed in the commission," Fairbanks said of the trail plan from before he was on the commission. "Well, we've started working behind the scenes to get it back together, and it's taken a long time to do so, but that's in the works right now to happen."
Fairbanks said there is still a lot to be done before any trail work could begin, but that the county has accepted a $20,000 grant to use toward Rails to Trails in District 1, getting the ball rolling on "one of [his] favorite projects."
City Council District 1
Henderson represents Lookout Valley, Hixson, Moccasin Bend and other areas in northern Chattanooga and is seeing a similar trend of rapid development and growth.
"We are just experiencing a whole lot of growth in the district, especially up around [Highway] 153, " Henderson said, highlighting the Hillocks Farm development, a massive multiuse development that just finished its first phase constructing apartments. "The total buildout of this development is $100 million, and phase 2 will include commercial and retail space including, maybe — they're still waiting on a decision — but maybe a large chain grocery store. After phase two and retail they are looking at some single-family developments."
While Henderson said he is excited about the additional housing and amenities going up in his district, he said he is also fighting for road and stormwater improvements commensurate with the growth in the area.
"It's just one of those things that, if you're growing like our district, you have to recognize the importance of infrastructure with the growth," he said. "We've had a lot of really good road projects up there in recent years, but looking at paving money and that kind of stuff in the [FY 2021] budget is something I'm going to be really focused on right now."
In addition to the obvious parts of growth, Henderson is focused on making improvements to the district and city to better accommodate its growing population, ranging from requesting a facilities audit of the Youth and Family Development center to developing a partnership with the Association of General Contractors to aid in workforce development.
"I can't say a whole lot about that yet, but I have been talking to the [association] for a long time and expect to have an announcement about workforce development in 2020," Henderson said excitedly. "I think workforce development is something we are going to have to address to attract businesses through our talent and that means spending money to build that talent. — I think this ill be a very exciting partnership and a very impactful program for the whole city."
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.