You gotta feel for Steve Paris.
Paris lives in a beautiful house on an acre of land on Orlando Avenue, just off Bennett Road. His place, one of about 10 houses on the dead end street, is the nicest piece of property in the neighborhood.
When a developer bought up the house across the way – the home where Pioneer legend Dot Guinn lived for half a century before her death – Paris started paying attention. He called City Hall and asked what was going on. He found out that the developer wanted to subdivide the 1.73 acre lot into five parcels and build houses on the property. Paris didn’t like the prospect of more houses on his narrow street and he wanted to tell city officials about his concerns.
Paris got on the phone and was told by a city staffer that he would have an opportunity to voice his opposition. The city staffer said that notices would be sent to all residents within a certain radius of the planned development.
That notice never happened. By East Ridge ordinance, it never would.
You see, the property was already zoned single family residential (R-1). All the new owner wanted to do was subdivide and build.
The East Ridge Planning Commission approved the developer’s plan during its January 8 meeting. The subdivided properties met all the requirements. Everything was perfectly legal. The meeting was pretty much a formality.
But Paris, and any of his neighbors who may have been for the project or against it, weren’t at the meeting. They never got a notice. Notice not required for the simple task of approving plats for building houses in R-1 neighborhoods.
In short, Paris got bad information from a City Hall staffer. In my opinion, the bad information wasn’t malicious, just a simple mistake that humans sometime make.
Paris had another word for what happened. “I was lied to,” he told Mayor Brian Williams at his first “meet the mayor” event last month. Williams apologized profusely for the mistake. Not sure that Paris accepted the apology.
Had Paris been given the opportunity to publicly appear before the planning commission opposing the subdividing of the property on his street, I’m not sure it would have turned out differently. The developer wants to build more houses. He took the legal steps for surveying and submitting plans to City Hall. How could City Hall deny his request? City Hall doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on to stop the developer.
And, there’s no incentive for city officials to balk at builders. More houses, more property taxes, more money for the city coffers, right?
Maybe city officials need to rethink the mindset of allowing the total build-out of East Ridge. Two years ago, the planning commission and City Council approved rezoning a property off Frawley Road for development of a huge subdivision. City officials then gave the OK to allow some of those houses to have zero lot lines, allowing the developer to build dozens of more houses in the project, making more money and producing more revenue for the city.
You may have noticed site preparation is underway for more houses on Roosevelt Street, a dead end street off McBrien Road. That property was rezoned several years ago by city officials. It changed hands a couple times and the project is now moving forward.
After a developer raised the property some eight feet, more than a dozen homes with zero lot lines have been built on Reneau Way, just off McBrien Road near South Terrace. More are coming.
More houses, more people, more traffic, more money for the city coffers.
East Ridge is a city of eight square mile with 21,000 residents. It is already the most densely populated city in the state of Tennessee. My question is this: do we, the good people of East Ridge, want a city that is even more densely populated? What will that do for the quality of life of you and me and all our neighbors?
Maybe we need to amend our ordinances as it pertains to new houses being built. Maybe the lot size needs to be larger. Maybe our elected officials need to reject zero lot line rezoning. Maybe our elected officials need to focus on revitalizing the western part of the commercial district on Ringgold Road. Property tax rates on commercial property are higher than residential property tax rates. Plus, all those businesses would produce sales tax revenue, too.
Which brings me to this … what do the residents of East Ridge really want?
Know this, East Ridge will celebrate its centennial in 2021. It has been pointed out that East Ridge has never had a “mission statement,” a document that defines why an organization/city exists, its reason for being. Our current mayor is now in the process of producing one. And he wants your help.
Mayor Williams is inviting everyone to Local Coffee of East Ridge on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 10 a.m. for another “meet the mayor” event, the second of many, according to Williams. It will be an excellent opportunity to express big ideas about our city.
And, who knows, you might have an opportunity to drill down a bit and discuss zoning issues, residential development and make sure that what happened to Steve Paris doesn’t happen to you.