The Signal Mountain Town Council will vote at their upcoming July 9 meeting on whether to approve a controversial rezoning application regarding property located at the northwestern corner of Albert Road and Taft Highway. Prior to the rezoning request, Albert Road was the redline on Taft Highway past which commercial development within the town did not extend. This rezoning request, if approved, will break that redline.
Before any council member votes in favor of the rezoning, I simply ask if they would or would not stand before the citizens at that July 9 meeting and say, “I cannot begin to tell you how much my neighbors and I have always dreamed of having a dumpster, a 50 car parking lot, and 12,000 square foot office building right next to our single family homes. I would love to have this development built on my street or in my neighborhood.”
If unwilling to so unequivocally and graphically put their reputations on the line as to how they see this project fitting into a long-standing residential neighborhood, how can they see their way clear to imposing upon the Albert Road area residents a development they would not gladly wish upon themselves and their neighbors? This is especially true when those residents seek only the continued protection and benefit of decades old rules governing their most important asset- their family home.
The son of the property owners (if I understood the speaker’s introduction correctly) who are seeking the rezoning said at a recent town meeting that before asking for the rezoning, the property owners tried in good faith to sell the house but could not do so, at the asking price of $900,000. I understood that the explanation was proffered as something of a justification for the rezoning request- sort of a “what other alternative do we have” contention to my way of thinking. Left unsaid at that meeting, at least to my knowledge, was the appraised value of the subject property on the county assessor’s website. If I looked it up correctly, and if you take the time to do so, I believe you will find that the property in question carries an assessed tax value of approximately $360,000. If that approximate value is correct, how many residential properties readily sell for 250 percent of their appraised tax value? And more importantly, in any event, what justification would it provide for changing the rules upon which the neighborhood was built in the face of the adamant objections of the nearby homeowners?
I also think it important that council members supporting the rezoning explain, in public, why, as a community, we either need or want to create more commercial zoning given the number of existing commercial properties within the town that are up for sale or available for lease, but which now stand totally empty. Drive by the empty Atlantic Capital Building on Taft Highway. Drive by the empty gas station/market adjacent thereto. Drive by the long empty Signal Mountain Cleaners building. Then look across the street at what seems to be a large empty office at the corner of Palisades and Taft. Drive by the closed restaurant on James or the former, but long empty, Taco Bell building on Taft. Look at the empty commercial/office space across the street from the Pruett’s shopping center. Can council members supporting the rezoning explain why further commercial expansion into residential neighborhoods is needed? No one wanted to make Rossville Boulevard, Dayton Pike, and Brainerd Road as ugly as they are. But they are not unique. And they certainly were not an accident. They need to be seen for what they are ---land use planning embarrassments, not models for our town.
No limiting principles have been expressed that will separate this rezoning request from other subsequent rezoning requests. Instead of explaining to citizens, who have spoken at a prior town meeting, as to why they are incorrect in likening the approval of this rezoning request as the first domino to fall, council members spoke about concerns as to what might happen in the unincorporated county near Corral Road if expanded commercial zoning in the town is not approved. Our zoning rules need to be more than a speed track in a race to the bottom.
I apologize for the length of this letter, but hope it will stimulate others to ask questions and speak out.
David R. Evans