A vote by the Hamilton County Commission on Wednesday rezoned property at 3132 Ooltewah Ringgold Road from A-1 Agricultural and R-2 Residential to R-1 Single Family District. The commissioners then approved a special exception permit for a Residential Planned Unit Development for the property that will add 38 houses. This started a discussion about how residential development affects economic development.
After the vote approving the zoning change with only Sabrena Smedley voting against, she told of her concern about growth along Ooltewah-Ringgold Road and the effect it is having on housing in that area. She said being a realtor she is pro-growth, but when growth outpaces infrastructure it has a negative impact on real estate. There are about 1,000 lots under constructed there now, she said, and she believes that the county should take a look at the congestion that is occurring along that road.
Commissioner Smedley said Ooltewah-Ringgold Road, and a section along East Brainerd Road that is also being quickly developed, are both priorities and are both on the “fast track” to be widened. The fast track, however, means it will take from eight to 10 years before that happens.
The community is concerned and has been holding meetings about the fast pace of growth in District 7. “I’m talking about one road, not District 7 as a whole,” said Commissioner Smedley. She said one developer told her he would not build another house there because he couldn’t sell it.
This commission is pro-growth, including manufacturing growth, said Commissioner Tim Boyd. We cannot afford to let a few hundred people direct what is best for the entire county. He added that two major homebuilders had told him that if infrastructure is not improved, they will go to Bradley County where prices are lower—and some have done it already. If builders leave, the existing residents in Hamilton County will see increased taxes, he said. Taxes cannot be held low without growth, he said, so we need to work with the state and developers. We want more jobs, he added, but will not get them without housing. That is the effect of stifling development, it is crucial to the revenue base.
Commissioner Warren Mackey agreed with Commissioner Boyd and added that people who move also are looking for good schools. He said that all the work to bring more jobs would be in vain if Hamilton County does not benefit from the growth.
Another zoning request was denied. After a room full of neighbors came to the last Commission meeting opposed to a short-term rental in their neighborhood, a recommendation was to deny the vacation rental at 5701 Island View Dr. The recommendation was because it is a private road with 17 people living on it, all against the proposal except the owner who does not live there.
A definition of Community Agriculture, Commercial Animal Husbandry and Open-Air Market were added to the zoning regulations. This will prevent nuisances created by agricultural uses immediately next to a residential area. The amendment was recommended by the Regional Planning Agency.
The Commission approved adopting regulations that govern the use of the county rights-of-way. State law allows public utilities, not private entities, to use the rights-of-way without getting permission from the county. This new policy will increase communication and provide a better tool to control work in the county rights-of-way. It puts clear rules in place and lays out how they apply. All responsibility will now be under the Highway Department.
The bid was accepted for re-roofing the Hamilton County Courthouse In the amount of $1,542,267. The new roof comes with a 30-year warranty. And the purchase of two vehicles in the amount not to exceed $60,000 and 20 vehicles for $667,524 was approved, all for use by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.
Money from the General Fund travel discretionary money was appropriated to the Harrison Ruritan Foundation for various programs in the county that feed children who experience a lack of food. Five hundred dollars will come from Districts 2 and 5 and $1,000 will come from funds allotted to Districts 6, 7 and 9.
County Mayor Jim Coppinger introduced and gave credit to Marc Ericson, deputy director of the Hamilton County Office of Emergency Management, for the outstanding job he did last weekend when Tennessee American had a major water main break leaving the city without water services. The group began responding to the emergency one hour after it started on Thursday night until 4 p.m. on Monday. Mr. Erickson coordinated the entire effort that involved 55 agencies from around east Tennessee. This coordination provided one voice so as to speak accurately, said County Mayor Coppinger. “I had the honor of leading the amazing team,” said Mr. Erikson.
The county has to account for every penny it spent during that time in order to be reimbursed by Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. The costs are now being gathered.
A special presentation was made to the commissioners by Dr. Sean Richardson, chairman of Tobacco Free Chattanooga, who told of the increasing evidence of dangers of tobacco. He thanked the Commission for the designation of being a smoke free community and requested help with efforts in public housing. It is already a HUD rule that smoking is prohibited in public housing and a perimeter of 25 feet around the buildings, but Section 8 housing and private rental homes are not currently included in the no-smoking rules. He said there is increasing proof of the hazards of third hand smoke. Chemicals left behind from the smoke stick to walls and furniture and therefore has an effect on health of a person just by living in the house when a former tenant smoked.
Smoke from marijuana also leaves behind the same chemicals, he said. The difference in harm caused by marijuana versus tobacco, he said, is that tar is reduced and that people are not smoking packs of marijuana each day, so a pack of cigarettes has a greater effect.
Vaping is just now being studied. He said that the recent respiratory problems with vaping are not happening in Europe. For now, the belief is that the added flavors are not responsible, but are a gateway to get kids hooked. Lung tissues are sensitive and protect the blood stream from outside air, so it is reasonable that this smoke would also do harm. Vaping is not a safe alternative to smoking, he said.