Plan Chattanooga Sees Need For 46,000 New Housing Units In Next 20 Years

  • Sunday, March 3, 2024
Exploring Big Soddy Creek Gulf
Exploring Big Soddy Creek Gulf

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency said one finding of its Plan Chattanooga process is the demand expected for 46,000 new housing units in Chattanooga and Hamilton County during the next 20 years.

RPA officials said experts estimate Hamilton County‘s population nearing a half million residents over the next 40 years (Source: Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research at UT).

The expected demand for 46,000 new housing units in Hamilton County by 2024 "is a reality that has area elected officials and planners working diligently on a strategy to address this influx," it was stated.

The RPA said, "After months of community input, research and analysis, we're moving forward with the next phase of plan development. This comprehensive plan is a blueprint for our community's development, touching on everything from transportation to housing and public services. Starting in March, the RPA will be rolling out the plan findings, including draft maps that envision the future layout of our community.

"The goal of Plan Hamilton is managing long term growth and prioritization of capital projects. This is the first time Hamilton County has looked at the outlying areas of our community through the lens of managing growth and the potential impacts to infrastructure and services. Through advanced planning tools and cross-departmental collaboration, we're laying the groundwork for a future that benefits everyone.

"Amidst ongoing growth and development, understanding and meeting the evolving needs of our community is more important than ever. This call for planning comes as a result of the unprecedented number of people moving to Tennessee, with Hamilton County seeing one of the largest rates of population increase in the state."

RPA Executive Director Dan Reuter said, “We are a 90-minute drive south from the Nashville suburbs via I-24 and a 90-minute drive to the Atlanta suburbs via I-75 with both serving as major freight corridors; the area is going to grow based on trends set over the past 10 years.

“Our location makes us a powerhouse for the southern U.S economy, and our outdoor attractions and having one of the most robust internet networks in the nation are attracting new businesses and professionals. Therefore, it's critical that local governments in the Chattanooga region work together to manage growth.”

During the coming months, Plan Hamilton will bring together County departments and focus groups of community members to provide a better understanding of transportation, community and land use issues. More public meetings and online virtual engagement opportunities are also planned. Plan Hamilton will align with future capital expenditures by County departments, to support transportation, land use, and community services.Once adopted, it will provide an effective guide for growth within the County including future operations, capital planning and implementation, officials said.

Mr. Reuter said, “Starting in March, we'll be unveiling the findings of our analysis, including maps that envision the future of our community. County departments are working hard to meet community needs on all levels. Everyday growth occurs and new jobs are announced. This requires us to continuously advance our knowledge of infrastructure and service needs. We need to use the best planning models and data, and coordinate capital needs across city and county departments.”

Plan Hamilton data/research/analysis and progress on the county-wide Place Type maps will be presented to the Hamilton County Commission at their regular session on Wednesday.

Officials said, "What we’ve learned so far: Chattanooga and Hamilton County are both beautiful and successful communities. However, there are great opportunities for our local governments to work together to make our communities even more successful and more resilient in the future. Work on the plan has been aimed at identifying community needs and addressing the many challenges that come with growth as well as looking for ways that communities can benefit from new energy and investment. Early feedback has indicated a strong community desire for adding new parks and greenways, maintaining open spaces and protecting our mountains, ridges and creeks.

"A top issue for most people living in the county is losing the character of where they chose to live, often in a quiet rural setting. They worry that change is occurring at such a rapid pace, services will not be able to keep up. These concerns include maintaining existing roads, dealing with traffic congestion, and how to fund new schools and other services if growth is to continue outward."

"Key points from the Plan Hamilton data analysis and public engagement process include:

"There are approximately 47,000 students currently enrolled in Hamilton County public schools, 10,000 in private schools and another 20,000 in local colleges who will need jobs and housing in the future. (public or private, plus colleges Source: RPA (public data).

"Preservation of farmland and rural character, steep slopes, woodlands and riparian areas should be made priorities - this comment was a top response across all areas in the County. The public also expressed concerns about increasing traffic congestion during peak hours and whether services are adequate or available as new development occurs.

"A good portion of Hamilton County features slopes steeper than 30 percent or greater. In addition, areas within the floodway and the 100-year floodplain are constrained when it comes to new development. If development continues at the current rate of growth into outlying areas, this could result in the potential loss of 2,800 acres of land and sensitive resources."

The RPA, with UT-Chattanooga, is also exploring financial strategies that can be considered to build new transportation and infrastructure projects, recognizing the need to complement state and federal funding with innovative local solutions. Other major planning activities underway include:

1. A kickoff of the Safe Streets for All (SS4A) transportation initiative

2. Administering a Federal Railroad Administration’s Passenger Rail Corridor study

3. An update of the Hamilton County Zoning Code

4. A Fire Services study for unincorporated Hamilton County

Plan Chattanooga is being led by the RPA and includes a team of transportation and land use consultants. This is the first time the city of Chattanooga and Hamilton County have undertaken a process for managing long term growth, identifying community needs, prioritization of capital projects and creating a program for Implementation, officials said.

In the coming months, the RPA and consultants will share the Plan Hamilton findings through a series of public meetings and events planned for April and May. These meetings will focus on choices - prioritizing where growth should occur, and which areas have key resources to preserve. For example, a neighborhood with an established residential character may see little change if infrastructure is limited or services are not available. Once finalized, this plan will serve as a comprehensive guide for our County's future development strategies. Comprehensive planning within the city of Chattanooga boundaries is also underway. (See Planchattanooga.org).

Officials said, "For more information and to stay up to date on how you can contribute, please SIGN UP at Planhamilton.org or see chcrpa.org for more information on meetings, announcements and planning updates."

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