The way city officials are evaluating and supporting Scenic City Land Company’s proposed Boy Scout Road development in Hixson is very troubling. In spite of the proposal’s numerous inconsistencies, flaws, and use of soon-to-be outdated water retention methods, it seems as if the request for re-zoning and development will be allowed.
Duane Horton of SCLC has been introducing and reintroducing changes to his plan for months. It isn’t apparent that anyone (including Mr. Horton) is exactly sure what is being proposed at this time. At every city and community meeting I have been to, there are additions and changes to SCLC’s proposal. I’m not sure if this is due to lack of preparation or an attempt to bait-and-switch. Regardless, SCLC appears unprepared, unprofessional, and haphazardly dealing with a permitting process that is in place to protect people and environment.
Equally as troubling is that our elected officials would vote on an application they had not read. On (Dec. 10, 2012) the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission approved the SCLC rezoning applications that they received minutes prior to voting. Indeed, the plan SCLC presented had elements in it that had not been seen by the public or the Planning Commission. At a recent community meeting moderated by Councilwoman Pam Ladd, (Dec. 17, 2012) it was revealed that neither SCLC or the RPA had considered TWRA’s State Wildlife Action Plan which lists a significant portion of the proposed development as high priority forest block.
Mr. Horton has repeatedly boasted that this development will contain surface water runoff controls to maintain 1 inch of rainwater on site for 72 hours and that this will "exceed any project that he knows of". What he isn’t boasting about is that these controls will not meet the impending federal runoff reduction requirement to retain 1 inch rainfall on site indefinitely – nor will do his controls meet the RPA’s recommendation of holding 1.6 inches of water for 72 hours.
Regardless, any statement about the effectiveness of SCLC’s runoff controls is premature given that neither a hydrology or soils study, nor a grading plan have been done on the site (despite the RPA's recommendation). The extent of runoff during construction and operational phases of this proposed development cannot be accurately predicted without such studies.
Mr. Horton and his cohorts continually refer to this as a responsible development. The responsible thing to do would be to improve and use the more than 600,000 square feet of unused developments in Hixon. Indeed, a responsible company would help keep our scenic city’s land from such development.
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It is truly sad that developers are not interested in using derelict properties in various areas of Chattanooga. I guess they just aren't attracted to ready failed locations that may not be up to code, aren't worth renovating, might contain asbestos or chemicals that involve expensive removal, aren't the "right" size property, don't have access to enough utility and sewer,
poor access, not enough parking, local restrictions, etc.?
I've seen these evil stepchild properties. It's like trying to adopt out a mangy three legged dog that is blind in one eye and has an ear missing. Junior questions, "Daddy, what is wrong with our doggy?"
I'm dreaming that a consortium of investors and owners will come along someday and perform some basic cleanup and prep to give the derelict areas a fighting chance. Perhaps the group might include volunteers that are ready to add their elbow grease to the effort to rid our city of these eyesores. Any takers?
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Regarding the comments by Sean Richards, I do know of a scenario where a developer was stopped. It was in South Pittsburg, the plan was to build a hazardous waste incinerator, and Nickajack Port Authority had the up or down vote to decide the fate of the project.
Granted, on the day of the vote, there was a large crowd on hand at the meeting place. Streets on two sides of the building were standing room only, the meeting space was shoulder to shoulder, and the yard out front was the same. I feel certain that every person living in that town today was there or knows several people who were. My guess is there were around 2,000 people standing at attention as the vote was counted.
The count was against and the two reps of the developer left with two Tennessee Highway Patrolmen escorting them from the scene. Though I did not feel bad for her at the time, I do recall the young lady of that pair trembling as they left.
That is one of the more pronounced versions of democracy at work I have seen. It is what needs to happen in a community when opposition to a proposed project is near unanimous and the outcome is pretty much assured to be a done deal by the elected body.
If local governance was truly participatory, we would have city council meetings at Finley Stadium, not the smallish meeting room it is in near to City Hall. If the folks of Hixson are really serious about this, the subject will be plain as Christmas coming for all in Chattanooga.
Knowledge and power will go well past the rain shadow around that hilltop soon to be removed.