The Planning Commission on Monday afternoon recommended denial for a sewage treatment plant for Ooltewah on Mahan Gap Road.
The final decision will be by the County Commission, which will hold a zoning committee meeting on Dec. 12 and a regular session on Dec. 19.
Opponents to the project overflowed the meeting room at the County Courthouse and dozens who could not get inside were out in the courthouse rotunda.
Four commission members opposed the motion by Commissioner Chester Bankston to deny the permit, but the majority voted in favor of denial. Developer Barry Payne recused himself.
Jason Farmer, of the Planning Commission said he felt it is "absolutely necessary to build a sewage treatment plant at some site, but not in the center of this neighborhood."
The Regional Planning Agency staff had asked for a 30-day deferral to obtain more information about the project, and the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority (WWTA) asked for a 60-day delay.
However, Commissioner Bankston quickly moved for a denial as the discussion started.
He said there are better sites north of the Mahan Gap property that the WWTA has under option to buy.
Mark Harrison, WWTA executive director, said it would be much more costly to build the plant at the old Birchwood Landfill or another site to the north. He said the Mahan Gap site could receive sewage mainly by gravity flow.
A line of speakers said the plant would harm property values, bring odors, and could cause health problems for children and others.
Several speakers said they did not believe the WWTA has been forthright with the community and had been misleading.
Mr. Harrison said if the plant is built elsewhere, the WWTA would likely still use the Mahan Gap property for a pump station and sewage containment.
He said the WWTA is already nearing the limit of sewage it can send to the city's Moccasin Bend Sewage Treatment Plant, and he said it is projected that 1,500 more homes will be built in the Ooltewah area over the next 10 years.
Mike Moon, chairman of the WWTA Board, said afterward, “We appreciate the questions that are being asked and the thoughtful methodical approach the RPA is giving to this process. We know there is a great deal of work ahead of us, but we are confident in the expertise around the table to make the best decision for Hamilton County’s future.”
Mr. Harrison said, "We do everything we can to be mindful of the cost of our services to our customers. As we plan for the future, while cost is an issue, it is not the only issue. We must continue to focus on the welfare of our community as well as the impact on economic development our actions will have both now and in the future. We are going to focus our efforts on answering the questions and concerns of homeowners located within close proximity to the proposed plant as well as to the 367,000 citizens of Hamilton County who need to know about our efforts. We appreciate the RPA’s leadership in this matter.”