This story was updated Wednesday, June 19, 2019, at 11:18 p.m. to reflect that an amended version of the senior tax increase was passed at the end of the meeting, after the initial two motions failed to get a majority vote.
In a marathon meeting with two members absent, the Hamilton County Commission failed to get a majority vote on the proposed senior tax break and the controversial rezoning of a part of Snow Hill Road.
The nearly four-hour meeting on Wednesday made no headway on the two most debated topics, with District 1 Commissioner Randy Fairbanks and District 8 Commissioner Tim Boyd absent, splitting the commission 4-3 on both issues.
Developers proposing a 453-unit development on a parcel of nearly 200 acres at 6424 Snow Hill Road — now Heritage Farms — have asked the commission to rezone the property from an agricultural to a residential zoning for low-density, single-family homes.
The proposed Ooltewah development has rallied concern from neighbors that fear traffic and neighborhood impact.
"What you choose [next week] will forever change what Snow Hill Road community will be," Melissa Cain, owner of The Gray Dove working farm and wedding venue, which is located across Snow Hill from the proposed development site, said at last week's public hearing. "Nothing like this is in this area. Please take that into consideration."
Citing the development's arduous journey through the planning commission, District 9 Commissioner Chester Bankston said "The 2.27 [unit] per acre [density] is thrown in a pot with the whole 200 acres and, with this plan, it would be five units per acre on this property the way they want to develop it."
Bankston argued the layout of the development makes a much more dense property than it seems on paper.
"That's why I did it. I'm the one who made a motion [to deny the rezoning] and that's why," he said. "[Supporting this] was a misunderstanding on my part and I take the blame for that."
Bankston's motion to deny the rezoning failed to get a majority, with four opposed and three in favor.
A proposal by District 6 Commissioner David Sharpe to add further tax relief for seniors amid a possible 34-cent property tax increase also failed for a lack of majority vote after questions about the relationship between the state and the county and the overall cost of the changes became too nebulous for some commissioners.
"There's just too much murkiness in this," said District 3 Commissioner Greg Martin. "And I think what would make more sense is that this would be studied in a committee I don't think we need to do this until we have some hard data."
Martin's motion to send the item to a committee for research failed to get a majority, with four in favor and three against. Sharpe's original tax break also failed to get a majority with three in favor and four against.
Both the rezoning and the tax break will come back to the commission to be voted on next Wednesday.
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @sarahgtaylor.