The Planning Commission on Monday afternoon approved new smaller lot sizes and setbacks in order to get more homes in new residential developments.
The final decision will be by the County Commission on July 21. If approved, it will go into effect that day.
Chairman Ethan Collier, who is also a builder, said the move to add density to new developments "would decrease the rural areas from being consumed."
He said it would ease pressures on widening of new roads and other infrastructure while "pulling houses closer to town."
Chairman Collier said the public's view of R-1 "depends on the era they lived in. St. Elmo residents would have a very different view."
Chris Mabee, who is also involved in building and in realty sales, said the move would help with the local housing shortage and home affordability.
Doug Fisher, executive director of the Home Builders Association, said it had been 40 years since the last change in the R-1 zoning category.
He said he heard a speaker say recently that "home is where the job goes at night." He said, "That is not happening in Hamilton County. They're going to Bradley County or to Georgia."
The new rules allow lots sizes of 6,000 square feet and frontages of 50 feet when there is a sewer and 75 when there is a septic tank. Front setbacks can be as little as 20 feet and side setbacks five feet.
County Commissioner Greg Martin questioned whether the current R-1 zone should be kept as is, and there should be a new residential zone for the smaller lots. But he voted along with other Planning Commission members for the R-1 changes.