During the Regional Planning Commission’s consideration of various zoning requests on Tuesday, several items initiated discussions about existing policies that the planning commission uses as a basis for the zoning decisions that they make.
The planning staff made a recommendation to approve the application to build 12 townhomes on property located at 6340 Middle Valley Road with conditions applied.
The conditions put on the two one-acre plots limited the density and would only allow a maximum of four dwellings per acre, each with two units. Building would be allowed only on one of the lots.
Chairman of the RPA Ethan Collier noted that the density cap of just four units seemed incompatible with townhome developments. Director of Development Services Bryan Shults replied that the recommendation was based on an old policy and that land use has changed since. Executive Director John Bridger said it would be the RPA’s decision whether or not to change the old recommendations.
The current maximum density for RT-1 zoning is 16-18 units per acre which would be about 32 units, which means that on a two-acre site, 64 units could be built. The motion from board member Jason Farmer concerning the Middle Valley property was to allow 12 townhouses to be built per acre and both lots could be used.
A second request challenged the standard for a building’s mass in an Urban General Commercial (UGC) zone. The city of Chattanooga requested a deviation from the established norm in order to create an affordable housing development at 1815 E. Main St. The standard for the size lot in a UGC zone would have a footprint of 12,000 square feet. The RPA board granted the request to allow the building to have a footprint of 18,000 square feet and three stories. It was recognized that this is a big deviation and that it would set a new precedent along Main Street.
The rights of property owners was a factor in the decision of a zoning request at 2600 East 40th St. The owner of the property requested a zoning change from M-1 Manufacturing to UGC. The land is surrounded by heavy industrial development and warehouses off of Dodds Avenue and is in the Rossville Boulevard Plan. The new zoning designation would allow the owner to build townhouses at the location.
The biggest concern from those opposed was that it would put residential in between all the industrial businesses that have trucks coming and going early in the morning and throughout the night and that the parking lots of these business are well lit. Opponents felt that the noise and lighting problems made the site a bad fit for residences. And, why the owner did not just request a change to RTZ Townhouse zone was asked.
Executive Director of RPA Bridger said that UGC zoning would allow a lot of other uses besides residential and that a vote in favor would be approving a zone, not a use. In the end, there is no guarantee that it will be used for townhouses, he said. The conflict between “squeezing down the M-1 zone,” so no new jobs would come from the location, and the need for more affordable housing was discussed.
The owner is fully aware of the situation and has assured the RPA that full disclosure would be made to anyone moving into the townhouses. The industry was there first and no changes would be made for the impact they would have on the residences.
Mr. Farmer commented that the landowner was asking to down-zone and they believe they can make it work knowing what is around it. So, it is a matter of property rights. The zoning agency voted to approve the change to UGC and let the owner decide how to use their property.
The Waterstone Ridge subdivision on Waterstone Drive, has an additional 100 homes planned. The question before the RPZ was if an additional access point into the neighborhood was needed for phase II of the development. The staff made a recommendation to open up Eller Road, an existing city road that dead ends into the subdivision. The argument was that a second entrance would allow traffic to exit in the event of an emergency if the other road was blocked. In the end, it was decided that the residents on Eller Road would not want the extra traffic and the residents living in Waterstone Ridge would be happier without it. The motion passed to approve the plat without a second access point.
Once a recommendation has been made by the RPZ, it goes to the Chattanooga City Council for approval. The outcome is sometimes different from what the RPZ proposes. Discussion about this, ended with the RPZ requesting for the city council to follow-up with the RPZ and provide a report explaining why they made the decision that differed from the zoning agency’s recommendation.
Zoning recommendations that were made on Monday include:
· The approval for abandoning the Right-of-Way at 5547 Glenn Falls
· Denying a change from R-1 to R-2 at 4440 and 4452 Byrd Ave. and 3917 Lightfoot Mill Road
· Approval to abandon a triangular shaped Right-of-Way at 1700 Green Hill Drive
· Approval of rezoning 6340 Middle Valley Rd and additional parcels from R-1 to Rt-1
· Approval to rezone 7641 Austin Drive from R-1 to %-5 to allow a single wide manufactured home
· Approval of lifting conditions on property at 1912 Willow St. Approval is for school use only
· Approval to allow a deviation of the UGC zone at 2600 40th St.
· Approval for the change from M-1 to UGC at 2600 E. 40the St.
· Approval for changing zoning at 3803 Clio Ave. and 3800 Rossville Blvd. from M-1, C-2, R-1 to UGC
· Approval to rezone 1736,1742, and 1748 from R-1, R-5 to R-TZ for single family residential use
· Approval to rezone 7417 from A-1 to R-1 with 4.5 units per acre.