The next steps in rezoning 617 Cauthen Way were discussed at the Signal Mountain work session Friday afternoon. Since the last council meeting, Town Manager Boyd Veal created a list of conditions to include in the zoning ordinance relating to the proposed commercial development designed to assure that there is no negative impact to the surrounding properties or to the interest of the town. That list was sent to The Keith Corp. and the town now has a “red-line list” in return from the developer.
A town ordinance requires that a decision is made in response to a zoning request within 90 days of the time that the council receives a recommendation, either for or against, from the planning commission. In that time period, there must be a public hearing which has to be advertised 15 days in advance, and a first and second vote. The council received the recommendation to deny the rezoning request on May 14, making Aug. 14 the deadline.
The new commercial area would have a large Food City super market, a strip development for shops and cafes, a parking lot to accommodate 150 vehicles and changes to the roads to accommodate the additional traffic.
A public meeting about this proposal has been scheduled for Wednesday, June 13, at 7 p.m., which will be followed by the first vote. If the first vote results in a denial, the process will stop.
Vice Mayor Dick Gee said the sentiment is overwhelmingly negative at this point, but to be fair to the developer, it should be presented to the public before the council votes. Mayor Chris Howley said he had received from 70-100 emails in the past week about this rezoning issue, most in opposition. “I can’t support it as it is now,” he said.
From talking to citizens, said Mr. Gee, he has realized there is an unawareness of the rezoning procedure and that people do not understand why the council is considering it. He said, "We are responding to a request and it cannot be denied without going through the defined process."
Another rezoning request is also now under consideration. The council’s first vote approved rezoning property at the corner of Taft Highway and Albert Road from Low Density Residential to Office District for a professional office building. Developer Bob Elliott with Noon Development has asked that the second and final vote for his project be held at a separate time than the vote for rezoning at 617 Cauthen Way.
The cost of keeping, maintaining and making upgrades to the Signal Mountain water system would have a “dire financial impact,” said Mayor Howley. “It’s a no brainer,” said the mayor, adding that the risk is unbelievable. Vice Mayor Gee said in his opinion it would be a grand waste of resources.
It was decided to begin negotiations for the potential sale of the system with both Tennessee American Water and the Walden Ridge Utility District. The mayor and town manager will work together with both companies to get proposals in writing to bring back to the council. The five-year moratorium on raising rates that has been proposed by both companies is an issue of concern to Mr. Gee, who said after five years there would be a huge rate increase. Whatever is decided will be sent back to the planning commission, which will make a recommendation, after which two votes will be required.
Mayor Howley has been approached about joining the small cities coalition in Hamilton County. He said the county will be taking more sales tax from the cities and the Hall Tax is being eliminated. Signal Mountain declined to join the other cities several years ago when the coalition was formed, leaving the Tennessee Municipal League to represent the town. The mayor will meet with the coalition’s representative and see a presentation to get more information to pass on to the council members.
On Friday, the council also approved raising the amount that is allowed for bank transfers on the condition that a written policy is created. The town manager, assistant town manager and Finance Director Carol Thompson are authorized, but the current limit of $35,000 is not enough to pay principal and interest amounts for repetitive payments.
The council acting as the beer board, gave May Fly Coffee a beer permit, contingent upon satisfying all of the town’s rules and regulations. The Signal Mountain beer code says an on premise license can only be given to a restaurant where both lunch and dinner are served, and which has a minimum capacity of 50. The restaurant is in the process of remodeling and making changes to its operations.
The next meeting of the Signal Mountain Council has been rescheduled from the second Monday of June to Monday June 18, at 6:30 p.m.