I attended City Council’s latest hearing on weakening current stormwater regulations, and, as someone who grew up and went to school in Brainerd now living in District 6, I have several observations.
First, thanks to the City Council for the series of hearings on this matter, graciously and fairly presided over by Councilwoman Carol Berz. The city government was remarkably secretive as it developed this proposal, refusing to partner or even notify the advocacy groups which helped develop the current standards collaboratively in 2014, choosing instead to work exclusively with the development community for this proposed change.
Second, I listened in slack-jawed amazement to the remarkable claims by Mr. Bill Raines and his development cabal, trotting up one after the other to assert that the South Chickamauga watershed’s rainwater retention standard-- currently requiring 1.6 inches of rain on site-- should be reduced to 1 inch, well, just because. Because that’s what the state legislature set for the entire state, with no allowance for different topography, conditions, or other pesky facts generally known as ‘science.’ Because apparently the South Chick’s watershed—the only place in town that 1.6 inch standard applies—is the most magical bit of land in the city’s wide area: according to them, it’s the source of Chattanooga’s scarcity in low income housing. This 1.6 inch retention standard in the South Chick watershed has, according to them, all by itself made building starter homes impossible in Chattanooga. These preposterous claims were made with straight faces by grown men and women.
Additionally, the city earlier acknowledged that by bowing to the developers’ grab and reducing that pesky 1.6 inch South Chick standard to 1 inch, that the city, i.e., ‘we’, would have to construct ‘other remedies’ to meet federal water standards. Such projects are notoriously expensive. Therefore, taxpayers (‘we’) would have to pay so that Mr. Raines and friends can make more money. I want them to make money—I am all for making money—but not if I have to pay for it.
Meanwhile, the Trust for Public Land continues construction of the South Chickamauga Greenway. It will soon connect from the Riverwalk to Camp Jordan, a green jewel awaiting discovery, running through some of Chattanooga’s poorest, most park- starved neighborhoods. It will doubtless compound the same cumulative economic and recreational benefits that the original Riverwalk brought, becoming an asset for tens of thousands of Chattanoogans. We should protect it from being mined for wealthy businesses, which damage we citizens will pay to correct.
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Thank you, Ms. Lemza, for a thoughtful, informative summation of the current issue regarding the "poor" developers in Chattanooga.
I too find it hard to fathom that any developer in this area could complain that these standards are keeping them from building anything, anywhere. Simply drive around town and look for yourself. If there's a square foot of land to be had, there's a developer proposing to cut lot line and zoning requirements to allow three houses on it. No matter that the houses don't fit in the existing neighborhood or that the lack of buffer zones between them and existing homes lowers property values of said existing homes. So long as someone makes a buck, everyone else can just deal with it.
As for the developers "poor me" assertions regarding stormwater requirements, there are multiple examples over the years of new developments causing flooding in existing neighborhoods. It is not fair or reasonable to allow these people to cause damage to other property owners and simply walk away with no consequences.
If you're in this business, you know there are regulations and requirements that are part of it. Leaving the taxpayers to clean up after your projects isn't the answer.
I hope our representatives are paying attention to the taxpayers' voices in this discussion. I am paying attention to their votes.