Up-Zoning For A Development On Highway 58 And N. Hickory Valley

Sunday, August 14, 2022

I am writing to express my opposition to the proposed “Up-Zoning” of property at the corners of Highway 58 and North Hickory Valley Road. When I use the term “Up-Zoning,” it is in reference to the upcoming agenda item requesting a rezoning to an R-3 Multi-Family Housing (code speak for apartments). As the authority having jurisdiction, the county commissioners wield tremendous power in administrative and quasi-judicial reviews through their collective interpretations and enforcement of zoning, building and fire codes. They must be mindful that ordinances placed on the books by previous generations are derived from well-documented, publicly accepted and economically sensitive land uses and policy plans. Paramount to deciding land use issues in a community, the county’s comprehensive plan is the prevailing and most important document. According to the county’s RPA, the Hamilton County comprehensive land use plan is sorely outdated. The current 2016 comp plan has specific goals and objectives decided by the county’s citizens that speak to this type of development rezoning.

It becomes a very slippery slope with the authority having jurisdiction does not employ best management practices and due diligence. A number of questions come to mind that must be answered. Questions such as: 

Is the proposed change in agreement with the general land use plan?

Is it consistent with growth area requirements of the adopted growth boundary plan?

Has it been determined there will be no adverse impact on adjoining properties?

If so, can it be justified by the overwhelming public good or welfare?

No one property owner will benefit materially to detriment of public good?

Has it been determined that public services and facilities will not be adversely affected?

Have the soil and topography slope surveys been completed?

Are there any underground transmission lines (natural gas, petroleum products, etc.)?

Have we considered the emergency incident evacuation and “choke points” for ingress and egress?

Are we following the international fire code and Hamilton County subdivision regulations?

Should not all of points raised be fully vetted out before making a rezoning change? This development proposal seems in direct conflict with Hamilton County’s own focus “…to ensure environmental protection, public safety…and a rich quality of life.” As an entity who is entrusted with preserving the quality of life, forests, water, and habitat, it seems ironic that this proposal has gotten this far in such a location.

Eliminating opportunities for public review of these major development projects goes against the principles of local democracy and public engagement. While it may be frustrating for some developers to hear concerns about development impacts, those affected by such projects have a right to be heard. Not having such outlets will increase the public distrust in government. Avoiding or restricting design review is also short-sighted. Community acceptance can be improved through a trustworthy design that enables a new development to match a community character.

To be perfectly clear, I am a fan of capitalism and good healthy progress, but the "Up-Zoning” to an R-3 on Highway 58 and N. Hickory Valley will hopefully not be rushed. These multi-faceted issues and concerns must be properly addressed. In her classic urban planning treatise, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, neighborhood activist Jane Jacobs writes: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

I respectfully petition the county commissioners to make this a “Win-Win” for all involved and vote no to R-3 on Wednesday.

Ted O. Padgett, Jr.

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