The vote was unanimous at the East Ridge City Council meeting Thursday night, to allow the professional soccer club Chattanooga Red Wolves to use fields at Camp Jordan Park for training. The Red Wolves approached the city about the fields. As City Attorney Mark Litchford explored that use, he found that funds that were used to build the fields in the 1970’s came from a land/water conservation fund grant. When the city accepted the funds it also accepted a lease/use agreement of deed restrictions for recreational use.
Mr. Litchford sought an opinion from TDEC, (Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation) whether use from a professional business was consistent with the grant restrictions. He told the council that TDEC recommended asking the National Park Service for a “conversion.” That would convert the property consisting of eight to 10 acres out from under the restrictions. The process would take from 9-12 months to complete. The National Park Service recognizes that times and uses of property can change over a 30-40 year period and so offers the option of a conversion. There is a $10,000 application fee, which the Red Wolves will pay.
The soccer club also plans to invest $1.25 to $2 million for improvements to the fields and build a stadium with seating for 1,500-2,000. Interim City Manager Kenny Custer said that the council has already approved participating with the Red Wolves to benefit the East Ridge rec leagues, and that the relationship has already begun. He said that owner Robert Martino wants to get involved with the youth program. Mayor Brian Williams said this is a great opportunity for the city and it will help with economic development. Councilman Mike Chauncey agreed and said it should encourage growth and promote hotels and restaurants in East Ridge.
A change order was approved from Premier Fence, LLC to add 24 dugout gates to fields one through 12 at Camp Jordan Park. The gates were left off of the original proposal. The additional cost will be $10,280.
Parks and Recreation Director Adam Wilson recommended to the council to adjust the fee structure for rental of the baseball and softball fields at Camp Jordan. It is necessary in order to align the rates with other parks in the Tennessee Valley market, he said. The council agreed and approved the proposal.
A public hearing took place concerning a sign for the new Jack’s Family Restaurant at 4209 Ringgold Road. A representative from Jack’s and from Pro Signs requested a variance to East Ridge’s sign ordinance in order to build a 20-foot-high brick monument sign in front of the building. The maximum height allowed in the city’s ordinance is nine feet. East Ridge resident Charles McCullough told the council that there is no point in having standards if they are not followed. Mr. Custer said that it took two years to develop the ordinance that was designed to rid the city of the proliferation of signs. He said the only variance granted since the new ordinance was passed was to Chick-Fil-A for visibility from the Interstate. While thanking the developer for locating in East Ridge, the council voted to deny the variance request.
Fees were waived for two events to use city-owned facilities. The Chattanooga Autism Center, in honor of Autism Awareness Day on April 6, will be allowed to use the East Ridge Community Center without paying the usual fee. Jones Memorial United Methodist Church will use the East Ridge High School football stadium for an annual Easter egg hunt on April 20.
The city will donate $500 to Spring Creek Elementary School for their student incentives program.
Each council member made re-appointments to the East Ridge Personnel Board for the year 2019-2020. This board serves as an advisory panel for the city relative to employment matters. Members are Jackie Barry, Robert Jones, Coleen Lieberum, Charles McCullough and Doris Rogers.
City codes were all updated to the latest 2018 editions, including those that regulate building and handicap codes, fire and life safety, fuel gas codes, plumbing, mechanical and existing building codes. The 2018 edition of the international property maintenance code and codes that regulate pools and spas were also passed.
A public meeting will be held on March 7 at 6 p.m. to discuss the status of the new playground and splash pad that will replace Pioneer Frontier playground that is now adjacent to city hall. The city manager said citizens of East Ridge are invited to the meeting to give input about plans for the new park. At this stage, he said, there is still time to make changes.
The council is in the process of interviewing four candidates to fill the city manager position that Kenny Custer has held on an interim basis since Scott Miller retired. One candidate was interviewed during the council meeting Thursday night and three more interviews will be on Friday, March 1. The public is invited to the interviews which will begin at 5 p.m.