Insane Building Codes - And Response (5)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

I am a surveyor working in the general area and very familiar with subdivision layout, building etc. On one hand, and rightfully so, we all want affordable housing, environmentally friendly housing, good use of our land etc.  But it seems like all the cities are bent against these concepts.  Recent case in point from the city of Red Bank.  Just one of many examples that could be given. 

"Another amendment to the zoning ordinance regarding minimum square footage requirements passed unanimously. New construction in R-1 zones will now be required to have a minimum of 1,400 square feet of heated living space. New construction in R-1A zones will be required to have a minimum of 2,000 square feet of heated living area. This change increases each by 200 square feet." 

Why on earth?  My first nice house was a three bedroom FHA home. It was 1,200 square feet.  I own a house that is two bedroom, perfectly fine, that my oldest daughter and family live in.  It is 800 square feet and they have plenty of space.  Fourteen hundred square Red Bank trying to limit itself to mini mansions?  I can't figure it out.

Maybe it is some kind of effort to keep the riff-raff out. Keep all the houses priced at $200,000 plus and keep out the Hispanics, etc. Maybe keep the property taxes high. 

Why any minimum house size at all?  If I want to build a 600-800-1,000 square foot house, all plenty big enough, especially in this day of small families and retired couples...why not? 

The rules and regulations are such that it is difficult or impossible to build a reasonably priced or inexpensive home anywhere in Hamilton County. The state is also involved in this fiasco. Tiny homes, conversion of mini barns to housing, limited manufactured homes, small reasonable homes of any type, are basically outlawed, not to mentioned alternative homes such as hay bale, cord wood, etc. It would be great if even some small section of Hamilton County somewhere was opened up to such things. I hate to say it, but maybe a new zone.   

If you compare the average earnings of the region with the average house price...the average person can't afford a home without both family members working and paying most of their income for housing. I know there is not much profit in building a $70,000 house, but we need those. 

Sam Clemons
Clemons Surveying 

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Mr. Clemons, 

I agree wholeheartedly.  We have lived in the same 1,250 square foot house for going on 14 years now as a family of three.  We hardly even utilize probably half that space as we spend 90 percent of our time enjoying the outdoors. Our utilities remain low and the home is inexpensive to maintain due to the square footage which are added bonuses.   

Different families have different needs, desires and requirements.  Square footage is just that and how much an owner needs should be left up to the buyer to determine. 

As for the square footage determining the quality of residents and upkeep, I can honestly say I have seen plenty of 2,000+ square foot homes run down and in disarray across the city and county.  I wonder at what point a homebuyer will be forced or regulated to pick from three floor plans as their only options.  Go ahead and laugh now, but just wait for it. 

Chris Morgan 

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Another ridiculous design point utilized in Hamilton County is allowing subdivisions to be constructed with only one entrance / exit road. This saves the developer but does it circumvent the purpose of timely emergency access / evacuation? In compliance with federal regulations for nuclear plant construction TVA installed warning sirens and posted evacuation routes – what good is an evacuation plan if gridlock is designed into the subdivision? It should be mandatory that every subdivision have at least two entrances / exits for traffic flow. 

Case in point a couple years ago a tornado passed over the Dallas Bay area blowing down a very large tree that blocked the only way in or out of High Ridge subdivision. 

Those writing building codes and zoning ordinances need to approach the subject from the stand point of “what would I want / need if I lived there?” and not from the maximize profit margin position of the developer. 

Tom Wheatley
Soddy Daisy 

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Come on, now; stop and think about this:  What possible reason could any government have for demanding larger and larger homes to be built?  Why would any 'public servant' prohibit the building of small, affordable homes like those in our old neighborhoods? 

That's right, you already got it on the first try: Taxes.  More money for the government.  Obviously a $200,000 house produces nearly three times as much annual property taxes as a mere $70,000 home, plus the larger house is probably on a larger and nicer property than the small house, giving the assessor another advantage, another excuse to extort more money from the owner every year. 

My home county north of Indianapolis long ago prohibited hundreds of farmers from building new barns; farmers were only allowed to maintain what buildings they had.  That was an obvious ploy to convert the county from mostly small family farms to mainly large subdivisions, astronomically increasing property values and tax revenue.  The Google satellite photos of the Westfield and Carmel, Indiana region now resemble worm-eaten wood, with those aimless and pointless and endless winding drives of housing additions replacing the typically 40 to 160 acre open fields that I used to know. 

And, of course, those rambling developments expand continually without limit, and housing prices increase the same way.  When my mother died 10 years ago, I had trouble finding a realtor who would condescend to handle her nice brick $100,000 home on a quarter-acre lot in town; I was told, "We usually don't bother with anything below $250,000 now." 

If you really want to understand what's going on here, look up some numbers that are easily available to the public.  Look up the salaries of all the government bureaucrats involved, and look up the assessed values of their own homes.  They don't live on $40 - $50,000 a year incomes like the local averages, and they don't live in $100,000 homes that most of us would appreciate.  Then if you really want to get upset about something, go back a year or two in the public records and see how little those government workers' property values increased compared to the 10 percent and more increases that the rest of us got.  It's obvious they have no shame, no conscience, and no comprehension of the financial burdens and limitations that most of us face every day.  

As Mortimer Caplin said,  "There’s one difference between a tax collector and a taxidermist--the taxidermist leaves the hide."

Larry Cloud
Lookout Valley 

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Red Bank is going through an identity crisis and wants to distance themselves from the likes of East Ridge. For that we can certainly applaud them. Unfortunately, this is an odd way to regulate prosperity and a higher quality of life within the city limits.  

I think it's fair to point out that this is a zoning ordinance instead of a building code. Building codes have more to do with life safety while zoning ordinances seek to protect property values. With that said, I also read where Gross Green Tech wants to decrease lot sizes in order to shoe-horn more houses on smaller lots. They have been doing this all over the metro area with mixed responses. The zoning ordinance, seeking to protect adjacent property values, should prevent them from doing this. Thankfully, Red Bank agrees on that one.  

This is definitely a move to increase property values and, thus, the tax revenues. I don't see any reason otherwise. 

Has anyone dealt with the stormwater in the city of Chattanooga lately? It is equally as ridiculous. 

Tim Giordano 

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Mr. Giordano, 

Could you please expound on your comment “The likes of East Ridge”. 

East Ridge, like most small municipalities around this country, is striving to address a number of issues that are vital to the citizens. Zoning, housing, retail development and many other issues are being addressed and plans are being developed to make East Ridge a place to relocate your family or business.  I am sure you are aware these things do not happen overnight. 

I would hope that in the future any comments you may have about East Ridge could be made in a more favorable and neighborly tone. We are making strides. 

Mickey Spence

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