Collegedale Commission Approves Rezoning For 512 New Homes Despite Citizen Opposition

  • Tuesday, October 18, 2022
  • Gail Perry

After a public hearing with a room full of people and a petition they brought with over 5,000 signatures opposed to a large new housing development in Collegedale, the commission voted unanimously to approve it. The 408 acres of land at Edgmon Road and Lee Highway was rezoned from  AG, Agricultural to R-I-L, Low Density Single Family Residential. After the rezoning, approval was given for a PUD overlay (Planned Unit Development). Without the zoning change and the PUD, the developer could have built one house per acre, or 408 houses on the property.

The PUD overlay will allow the lot sizes to be smaller and 512 houses can be built.

 

The approval of both ordinances was made with conditions attached. Only single-family homes can be built, the developer will be responsible for building the sewers replacing an old pump station and adding a water tank for storage. Curbs, gutters, catch basins and street lights will also be installed. There must be trees planted around the development along Edgemon Road and existing trees must be preserved f possible.  Ingress and egress will be from Edgemon Road, which will be improved to accommodate the increased traffic.

 

The layout of the large subdivision is divided into two parts, east and west. Open community space will be left in both sides, with 30 percent of the total acreage devoted to common areas on the east side and 20 percent on the west side. This open green space is made available by clustering the houses close together.

 

Around a dozen speakers were allowed 20-25 minutes to voice their opinions prior to the vote. Most said they were not opposed to change, but the large number of houses they feel is excessive. And they fear the city does not have enough police officers or firefighters and fire apparatus for the volunteer fire department for the large addition of housing. They cited flooding several times a year and traffic issues on Edgemon Road, which they already consider to be a problem, caused by adding 15 percent more vehicles each day. Many speakers asked the commissioners to consider that 512 more houses in a small area would change the face of the town to make it just a bedroom community of Chattanooga, rather than the unique town they are used to living in. And they believe that allowing the increased density would affect the property values negatively.

 

Mike Price with MAP Engineers, representing the developer Empire, defended against the comments and concerns, saying they have, for the most part been addressed. As for the concerns with the fire codes, Mr. Price said that the city had given the fire marshal all the authority to approve or turn down a fire plan and he believes it is sufficient. He said if, in the end, the fire marshal has a different opinion, adjustments to the overall plan can be made.

 

As for the concerns about adequate city services, Mayor Katie Lamb said when the property was annexed by Collegedale, the city had to guarantee certain services including transportation, public works, police and fire. There is a long-term growth plan for each department, said City Manager Wayon Hines. And the Hamilton County school board is responsible for providing for education, not the city, said Commissioner Debbie Baker.

 

This subdivision will take time to get to the point of people living there. The first step will be to grade the property before building starts, so Mr. Price estimates it will be two years before people start to move in and five-six years before it is built out. Without rezoning the property and allowing for the PUD overlay, Vice Mayor Tim Johnson said the city would lose the ability to require what it wants, such as the infrastructure. Other developers looking at the property have created plans that would have put 800 houses on the property. The vice mayor said he has met and talked to people in Alpharetta, Ga., where Empire has built several neighborhoods and he found the company is well thought of.

 

In regular business, a contract was approved with VC3 for IT services. It will be for a one-time cost of $71,902 and a $22,455 monthly fee.

 

The mayor will fill the one vacant seat designated for a commissioner on the new Airport Advisory Board until the upcoming election.

 

Highlights of the September financial report were given by Finance Manager Michelle Toro. At 25 percent  through the year, she said the city has received 13 percent of projected revenues and had spent 27 percent of planned expenditures. Sales tax revenue is coming in above budget. Election costs were over the amount budgeted.

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