The proposed grocery store in Walden on Signal Mountain is to be built over the Sewanee coal seam with 20 feet of mountain top removal and gas storage tanks dug even further into the ground. Signal Mountain is covered with old mines and sinkholes that expose 20 million tons of coal in the Sewanee coal seam.
The environmental hazards (wastewater, stormwater, acid damaged creeks and streams, sink holes, coal seam fires and toxic air pollution) this proposal creates have been attested to by geologists, engineers and environmentalists. The situation on the plateau has even attracted the attention environmental groups of SOCM “Save Our Cumberland Mountains', Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices, Southern Environmental Law Center and the Tennessee River Gorge Trust. Impacts will extend to not only to the Timesville and Lewis Mine area but will affect the Signal Mountain areas of Hidden Brook, St. Ives, Fox Run and extend to Rainbow Lake and the Tennessee River.
And yet the RPA and Walden Town Board chose to pass the buck to TDEC, who provided this information, and coordinated with the developer to create such a contorted proposal so as to hide the issues and leave everyone confused. These two bodies are hiding behind the inspection process while the developer is sure that the large community in opposition will eventually relent. Still yet another mistake.
The environmental and geological realities of the damage to Middle Creek Watershed continue to be ignored as development has encroached all over the mountain. It's obvious that these government institutions are focused only on growth and tax revenue without regard to the impact on existing communities and the fragile environment. The “shoot first ask questions later” approach that Walden has approved while butchering all requirements in their zoning will only lead to future reckless development.
Is this the real promised “legacy” that was promised to be “done right”? Without a sound land use plan that takes into account environment and existing communities, the goal of ”public health, safety and general welfare” will be lost.
It is truly unfortunate that when governments cannot meet their basic duties, the community must seek recall or legal recourse for extended fights in the highest courts to get basic protections.