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An expert on urban planning warned Friday that Chattanooga could face monumental changes with Volkswagen's arrival and that residents need to be prepared.

"There's any number of ways it can disrupt a community's life if it is not properly negotiated within the context of that environment (in which) it's going to locate," said Catherine Ross, director of Georgia Tech's Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development.

Dr. Ross was in town Friday speaking to the Tennessee chapter of the American Planning Agency and promoting her book, "Megaregions: Planning for Global Competitiveness.

To make sure communities are not disrupted, she said, strong zoning laws are needed to make sure what people hold dear is kept safe.

"It is the weapon," she said. "It protects the community assets."

As the Volkswagen plant is being built, she said it's wise for government and residential leaders to identify what changes could take place. A plant the size of Volkswagen's will affect everything from public safety, transportation, education and the health and welfare of residents, she said.

It will be up to Volkswagen and Hamilton County to safeguard against disruptions, she said.

"There's a delicate negotiation," she said. "It doesn't stop once they get here."

Mayor Ron Littlefield said Friday that type of planning is going on in Chattanooga. Planners from Tennessee and Georgia have met several times over the last several months to discuss those same issues, he said.

"We're preparing to lay out a more detailed strategy on how we need to respond to everything from roads to infrastructure to schools," he said.

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