East Ridge Council Approves Rezoning To Allow 20 New Units At Sweetbay Apartments; Dog Park Slated For Oakdale Avenue

Friday, September 14, 2018 - by Dick Cook, East Ridge Online

The rezoning of property on Fountain Avenue that would allow the continued renovation of an apartment complex was approved on first reading Thursday evening during the East Ridge City Council’s first meeting of the month.

Lexington Assets Management, which owns Sweetbay Apartments at 3623 Fountain Ave., had applied to rezone a portion of its property from R-1 Residential to R-3 Apartments on May 7.

Lexington’s aim was to build 20 new units on the property. Residents around the area were strident in their opposition to the proposal saying the complex would bring more traffic and potentially increase crime in the area.

On Aug. 8, representatives of Lexington Assets met with concerned residents to assure them the company would take measures to make the apartments safe and attractive.

“I’m against apartments and duplexes, generally, but (Lexington Assets) has bent over backwards,” said Vice Mayor Larry Sewell, who seconded Councilwoman Esther Helton’s motion to approve the measure. 

City Manager Scott Miller pointed out that a long list of conditions that Lexington Assets agreed to in its meeting with citizens should be incorporated into the resolution to rezone the property and allow the Sweetbay renovation to move forward. Those conditions include security fencing and lighting, a security guard on premises, security cameras, the careful screening of tenants and a “crime free addendum” added to the lease.

Russell Smith, an official with Lexington Assets Management, agreed to the terms.

The vote to rezone was unanimous. A second reading of the resolution on Sept. 27 will be required to make the rezoning complete.

The council passed a resolution authorizing the city manager to enter into negotiations to purchase a three-acre tract of land on Oakdale Avenue to be used as a dog park. The land is appraised at $210,000 and the cost is eligible for reimbursement by Border Region tax dollars, City Manager Miller said. The project will have additional costs associated with it including the clearing of the land and fencing, officials said.

Councilman Jacky Cagle said he preferred the dog park – and a possible new animal shelter – be built on a piece of property at 3400 Ringgold Road, near Blackhawk. He said that lot would require no prep work.

City Manager Miller countered that the Ringgold Road property is valuable commercial property that could potentially see new retail development and increased tax revenue for the city.  

Councilman Cagle said that he would still like to see a dog park and animal shelter built on city-owned property in Camp Jordan Park. Mr. Miller said that since he has been city manager, the sentiment of residents has been to see more city amenities away from the Camp Jordan area.

The measure passed, 4-1, with Councilman Cagle voting against.

A resolution regarding construction of a field house at East Ridge High School’s Raymond James Stadium remained tabled. City Manager Miller said he recently met with football coach Tim James about the construction. City Manager Miller said work still needs to be done on value engineering to reduce construction costs on the field house. In past meetings, it was discussed that the construction costs could exceed $350,000.

Mayor Brent Lambert reappointed Ron Renegar to the East Ridge Planning Commission for a three-year term. Councilwoman Helton appointed Rick Torok to the city’s Industrial Development Board. He will replace IDB member Bart Burns, who passed away last month.

An ordinance to rezone property at 1023 South Seminole Dr. remained on the table. Officials said its owner wanted more time to do a traffic study on how the proposed addition of an 80-unit apartment situated on the slopes of Missionary Ridge would affect commuters.

However, the council pressed forward with a public hearing on the rezone as it had already been properly advertised. 

Nearby residents and business owners spoke out in opposition to the rezoning.

James Citty, who owns a business near the property, distributed photos of traffic along South Seminole during the morning rush hour. He said, as it currently stands, work trucks leaving his property have a difficult time accessing South Seminole during morning rush hour. He was also concerned with stormwater runoff of a developed property. 

“This is a commercial property,” Mr. Citty said. “I’d love to see a business there; not an apartment complex.”

Charles McCullough told the council he wanted to see the west side of the city revitalized, but a new apartment complex was not the right move. He made note that in recent years the council had denied a rezoning for a 10-unit apartment on the site. Mr. McCullough said that the property owner wished to build a “luxury apartment complex,” charging $1,250 per month for a two-bedroom apartment. He termed that idea “unrealistic.”

Councilman Cagle made a motion to table the rezoning for 10 weeks. The result of the traffic study is likely to be discussed by the council during its Dec. 13 meeting.

The council passed on first reading an ordinance to rezone property from residential to commercial at 1509 Waterhouse St. Officials said a house on the property burned some years ago. Its current owner uses the property for a parking lot for his business located next door.

The council approved a special event permit to sell beer at a Duck’s Unlimited event at Camp Jordan Arena on Oct. 18. City Manager Miller told the council that the caterer of the event, Don Lyle of Stir, had obtained all required permits and met all conditions. 

The 43rd Annual Jones Memorial Barbecue will be held this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Barbecue sandwiches are $5, plates $9. Proceeds from the event go to supply winter coats to elementary schoolchildren. The council approved the purchase of $300 worth of tickets.

The council gave its blessing for the city to assist in the Tennessee River Rescue on Oct. 6. This is the 29th year the city has helped Larry Clark and his volunteer crew clean up trash and debris in Spring Creek.

Mr. Clark said that in the last 13 years, volunteers with Tennessee River Rescue have removed 472 tires, 53 shopping carts and 31,000 pounds of trash from the creek which meanders through the city from the Georgia state line to Chickamauga Creek.

The city obtained a small grant that will pay for T-shirts and snacks for the volunteers in the event, which is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.


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