I want to set the record straight about growth in North Hamilton County.
On Feb. 21, 2019, County Mayor Coppinger called a “reset” meeting with the residents of Ooltewah/Harrison over the proposed sewer plant in North Hamilton County. In front of this community, I stood up and specifically asked the county mayor if growth could continue in Ooltewah and Harrison on septic tanks alone has it has in this area over the last 75 years. He said “Yes.” I repeat “Yes” was his response to this question. He keeps saying that not having a sewer treatment facility has stalled growth and will halt any future growth. That is 100 percent not true; and he confirmed it publicly. I continued to ask if there was any environmental reason why septic tanks could not be used in the North Hamilton County area to continue growth? He responded “No.” He was backed in this response by members of the WWTA board and other engineers.
I am so sick and tired of hearing the report that if we don’t build this plant it will stop and hinder growth. This is a lie! The county mayor confirmed that growth can continue on septic tanks. If you don’t believe me ask one of the other 200+ people in attendance who witnessed me ask and him answer this question.
In fact, did you know that north of the proposed Mahan Gap property there are multiple subdivisions being developed that are being built on septic tanks systems? One subdivision has over 40 homes being developed. That sounds like growth to me. Subdivisions have been built since the 1970s in Ooltewah on septic tanks and are still operating well.
Growth can still occur in Ooltewah and Harrison on septic tanks without the need for an expensive sewer treatment plant. It does mean that property plots in subdivisions would have to be larger, and you can’t build homes on just a small quarter acre. But why is that a problem? People move to Ooltewah because of the wide-open spaces and a quiet, peaceful environment. We weren’t looking for an urban residence.
Did you know that some families in Ooltewah have owned their land and passed it down for over 75 years? For them it is not about money. Not to get sappy in this post, but it about the memories and the peace they feel on their land. This is a money can’t buy everything situation. Why is it bad that we want to keep the integrity and essence of the Ooltewah and Harrison we all love?
In the latest commission meeting the county mayor was commended by another commissioner for his passion in this fight. This is the same passion the people in this community have to save and preserve something we love. Why is our passion any less commendable? Why have we become the enemy for fighting for what we love? It is terrible that this issue has been so poorly presented without studies, community input, lots of misinformation. It is pitting resident against resident, neighbor against neighbor.
In the county mayor’s most recent commission speech he noted that this issue has become wildly political. The fact of the matter is that any issue brought in front of the county commission for decision is political. That is just simple definition of political issues. I think our county mayor misspoke and should have said it has become personal.
I do hate that for officials and their families that it has become personal and you have been attacked. This shouldn’t be the case. However, you have to understand it is very personal for us too. It is our homes. Our homes where we have placed large financial investments, where we raise our families, where we find a community and a place to belong, where we celebrate life’s great moments, and where we find comfort in low ones, so it is very personal to us and we feel attacked as well.
County Mayor Coppinger, we feel you aren’t listening to the people you represent in this area. You are more interested in growth for growth’s sake than planning for responsible growth and listening to the people that have placed their personal investment in a community they love. You can have growth and keep the essence of a community. Other cities have done it well, and it is possible. However, it takes hard work, working together, and developing well thought out plan to make it happen.
I told the county mayor at the meeting that I believe it is the responsibility of a mayor to get involved in growth and create a responsible growth plan. This has not been done. Did you know that no formal plan for growth has been developed yet for north of the Meadowview/Ooltewah Georgetown Road Junction. Nothing! The exact area this plant is supposed to service.
How do you know what the needs are unless you properly plan? I asked the county mayor the night of the “reset” meeting to get involved and help lead development of a responsible growth plan first instead of just pushing a plant that doesn’t a solid plan behind it. My verbal request seems to be pushed to the side, so here it is in writing.
I know I am a proponent for growth via septic tanks. I hate seeing farms cleared, trees torn down, and land striped for new subdivisions; because, we feel the need to pack in the homes.
I have yet to see a study on what growth would look like on septic tank development alone. I think any resident would agree with me they would rather pay $17-$25 per month for water and no sewer service than $110-$200 for water and sewer. I am still shocked each month by the $110-$200 bill I receive. Sewer cost is over 70 percent of my bill. I can find much better things to spend $1,000-$2,000 on each year.
I understand I may stand alone in being pro-growth on septic tanks alone for Hamilton County. Many have told me that it will never happen, but I am not giving up on the fight. I think a study is at least warranted, and we at least need to explore what that growth plan would look like. I also recognize that following reports I may have to secede to further sewer development, but I am one that needs to see it in writing. Not matter what we need a solid plan that addresses regional development as a whole (jobs, schools, housing, roads, and other infrastructures).
Growth should be responsible and intentional. Currently, proper studies and reports have not been evaluated and reported to stakeholders. Before we take on such an excessive financial burden that effect so many stakeholders the homework needs to be done.
I propose that we need to take 2019 to focus on developing a great growth plan. I believe there are other cities in the U.S. we could learn from who have executed great growth plans, and they haven’t stolen the original essence from the areas they occupy. This plan should evaluate how we preserve what makes our cities great, input from residents, and address what responsible debt burdens look like for our county and repayment strategies.
I believe we trying to put the cart before the horse, and in doing so we are looking at a massive financial burden for the entire county. Regional planning is at the heart of this sewer issue, and we need to develop a plan before we take on such I high burden for our county. I encourage you to write/keep writing your Hamilton County commissioner asking them to make responsible planning the first item on the agenda.