A pretty old house sits on a large piece of land where the commercial zone in the town of Signal Mountain now ends. That property at the corner of Albert Road and Taft Highway may be rezoned from low density residential to office district in order to allow a development of 10 or fewer professional offices proposed by Bob Elliott with Noon Development. At the town council work session on Feb. 23, many residents spoke in opposition to enlarging the commercial district.
Prior to that meeting Mr. Elliott had met with a citizens advisory group. They did not want the development to occur, but if it did, they wanted to know what restrictions would be put on the zoning change. Because the Design Review Committee (DRC) has not yet created a new policy for design standards, the council acknowledged that any new development must be dealt with individually, by putting restrictions and conditions on it.
Numerous comments and concerns expressed by the citizens were heard before the zoning change was approved on first reading Feb. 23 and a second vote is required for the zoning change to take place.
In the past week, City Manager Boyd Veal created a list of conditions for Noon Development that the council and citizens asked for before approval will be given for the project. The list “seems to incorporate what was discussed by the community. All has been captured and put in the revision,” said Vice Mayor Dick Gee. There are some issues that were not included such as the percentage of windows and the type of door, however those are issues that can be decided by the DRC, said Mr. Veal, not as conditions of the zoning change. “I’m satisfied with this document,” said Mr. Elliott.
Mr. Elliott and his firm have made numerous concessions, stated Mayor Chris Howley. "The way they have worked with us and the citizens is appreciated," said Vice Mayor Gee.
Jennifer Williams with the Southeast Tennessee Development District, which functions as the planning commission for Signal Mountain, came to the meeting to discuss access into and out of the proposed development. City officials are reluctant to add more traffic to Albert Road, which is already heavily used for getting to the commercial district. Ms. Williams initially recommended the access point be put on Albert because, she said, there is no turn lane on Taft Highway in front of the property and it could cause traffic to stop and back up. It has been determined, however, that Taft is wide enough for a turn lane to be added. Changes to Taft will require permission from TDOT since it is a state road. When contacted, the response from TDOT was “we won’t pay for it,” said Mr. Veal. The cost would be the responsibility of the developer.
The stipulations that the council agreed upon for commercial development of this property include:
1. The development must be used as professional offices.
2. The development must be a single building, only one story in height, consistently finished on all four sides and having a pitched roof.
3. A 30-foot landscaping buffer will be required between all adjacent residential lots and a 35-foot buffer along one property line. No structures, parking or driveway access is permitted within these buffers.
4. Screening will be provided within the buffers. Deciduous native plants are allowed if effective screening is accomplished and/or evergreen shrubs can be used, not less than four feet high when planted. Any masonry or solid fence used for screening must be between four and eight feet high and if masonry, it must be covered with stone to match the building. All screening must be maintained in perpetuity.
5. Maximum parking will be 4.5 spaces per 1,000 square feet and there will be one tree island for every 10 parking spaces.
6. The parking lot will consist of no less than 10 percent permeable surface, and best practices must be used relative to oil separation in storm water design
7. The lot cannot be used for outdoor sales including vehicles and RV’s
8. Parking lot lighting shall be controlled so it does not exceed zero foot candles measured at property lines, and 75 percent of the lights must be turned off between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.
9. All dumpsters and mechanical units must be screened and not visible to passersby. Noise from mechanical units will be controlled in accordance with the town’s noise ordinance.
10. A tree survey will be made prior to any disturbance and any that are removed shall be replaced based on trunk diameter at a one-to-one ratio. Landscape plantings must be warranted and replaced if necessary, for three years.
11. There must be a landscaped berm at least three feet high adjacent to Taft highway.
12. The developer shall seek approval to connect to the sanitary sewer system. If denied, a sewer connection “stub” must be installed at the property line nearest the existing sanitary sewer main. The town may require connection to the sewer system once such connection is authorized.
13. The entrance and exit into the development will be put on Taft Highway unless TDOT denies it. If that happens the only alternative will be to put the access point on Albert Road.
Because of the significant changes made to conditions that are being required for this development to occur, City Manager Veal said that the council must start over and go back to a first reading. There will also be two more public hearings on the matter. The fist public hearing will take place at the regular town council meeting on March 12 and the first vote will follow. The second public hearing and final vote will be at the April 9 council meeting.
In other business, Vice Mayor Gee told the council that Terry Gannon called him about his interest in purchasing the MACC. He said that he was going to come with a proposal.
Mayor Howley reported that he and Dr. John Freidl, former chairman of the Signal Mountain School Viability Committee, had met with Alexa LeBoeuf, director of community outreach with UnifiEd. They wish to get everybody to the table on both sides of the school district formation issue, he said.