The rezoning of a property on Ooltewah Ringgold Road sparked a Wednesday debate among Hamilton County commissioners about healthy growth.
The commission voted Wednesday to rezone a property at 3132 Ooltewah Ringgold Road from A-1 Agricultural and R-2 Residential to R-1 Single Family District, and it later approved a special exception permit for a residential planned unit development for the property, making way for 38 new houses to be built.
District 7 Commissioner Sabrena Smedley, after voting against the rezoning, told her colleagues she is concerned about the infrastructure in that specific part of her district supporting more growth, amid around the roughly 1,000 lots now under development in the area that is 8-10 years away from state funding on road widening projects.
"I'm getting concerned that we're to a point where we need to take a break and look at the traffic and the need for infrastructure [before allowing further developments]," Smedley said. "I'm asking that we take a look at what's going on. That's why I voted no on this particular project. I have to look out for the community."
Several of Smedley's colleagues disagreed with her cautionary view on growth, attributing the county's success to the very same growth.
"With all due respect to Commissioner Smedley and her concerns about District 7 and the growth, it's important for us to understand that this commission is pro-business and pro-economic growth," District 8 Commissioner Tim Boyd said, adding he was concerned developers and businesses would start going to Bradley County if the commission did not properly support them. "We cannot afford to let a few hundred people in a crowded district have direction over what's best for the whole county."
Smedley, a real estate agent, said multiple times that she was not coming out against business or development, not even in her own district, but against what she feared to be irresponsible crowding.
"There is no one more pro-growth than me; it's what I do for a living," Smedley said. "I'm talking about growth on one section of Ooltewah Ringgold Road, not District 7 as a whole. There is a point in time when growth outpaces infrastructure needs to a degree where it can have a negative impact."
Smedley said her comments were in response to community concerns about the area's crowding and that she is preparing a presentation on the status of growth, construction and infrastructure needs in her district.
She said she will present that to the commission in coming weeks, ahead of a larger potential development in the area coming before the panel.
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @sarahgtaylor.