UPDATE: The story contains links to detailed technical information from the Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency concerning the rezoning of the 60 acres for purposes of developing the Chattanooga Red Wolves SC stadium and mixed-use development. Click on the links below:
One down … 99 to go.
On Monday, the East Ridge Planning Commission voted to rezone 60 acres of low-lying property near Spring Creek Road to allow the construction of a multi-use soccer complex, what Jeff Sikes, the engineer for the developer called “step one of 100,” in the design process.
The effort to rezone the property drew considerable opposition from residents who live near the proposed development and an environmental activist from the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway Alliance. The general concern from the public were the issues of flooding and traffic congestion.
James Ellis, a resident of Marion Avenue who has lived in the city all his life, recalled the extensive flooding around the old Kmart building on South Terrace in the early 1970’s.
“My main concern is where is all the water going to go,” Ellis asked.
Chattanooga Red Wolves SC owner Bob Martino announced in April that he intended to build a 5,500 seat soccer stadium on the property that has sat dormant for 60 years. The stadium would be the centerpiece of a mixed-use development that would include retail shops, restaurants, apartments/condos, and a convention center. Martino said once the project is completely built out, his investment would be about $125 million.
East Ridge officials embraced the project in April and characterized the project as the largest development the city has ever seen.
Several residents who live in Lansdale Park, which borders the development to the south, were concerned about an access road being cut through the neighborhood and additional traffic clogging the subdivision’s streets.
Sikes explained the design currently calls for south access to the development from N. Mack Smith Road. The northern access would be off Spring Creek Road onto a spur of N. Mack Smith which dead ends into the western side of the site.
He said the “due diligence” work includes identifying wetlands within the site, which will determine how the property is developed. The development must pass muster with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers, he said. In addition, the developers must obtain a “no rise certificate,” a document assuring adjacent property owners that their land will not be inundated with water as a result of the project.
Sandy Kurtz, representing the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway Alliance, told the planning commission that her organization had reservations about the project’s impact on the wetlands.
“The wetlands are more valuable than people think,” she told the board. “They sift water and allow flood water to slowly sift into the ground.”
Kurtz said that she expects her organization to be “kept in the loop” as the development moves forward. She said that she and her organization could lend their “expertise” to the development as it relates to wetlands.
Kurtz said that she and members of her group canvased neighborhoods in the area handing out fliers alerting residents to the planning commission meeting and urging attendance.
After board member Ron Renegar made a motion to rezone the property from its current split zoned status of residential, commercial, commercial office and residental to the status of planned commerce district, board member Scott Miller said he was concerned about a lack of public notice.
“Only a select few have seen the conceptual drawings,” Miller said. “I want the public to feel comfortable about the development.”
Miller said he would prefer the rezoning of the property be passed for 30 days allowing the public to do it’s “homework.”
Assistant City Manager Kenny Custer said that he would make conceptual drawings and additional information available via the city’s Website, and provide printed drawings and information about the project available at City Hall.
Click on the links below for additional information about the project site:
Board member Casey Tuggle said he, too, was concerned about traffic and flooding. However, he said that the job of the planning commission was to consider if the land was suitable for the designated use under the rezoning. He said that regardless of the project moving forward, the planning commission should remedy the split zone status of the property and bring it entirely under one zoning status, that of “planned commerce district.”
He noted that the East Ridge City Council would review the actions of the Planning Commission in its next meeting on June 13. If it voted to allow the development, the council would then have a second reading on June 27. In the interim, the public could educate itself on issues facing the development and nearby properties, and have an ample chance to voice their objections or support.
Tuggle then seconded Renegar’s motion to rezone the property and the board voted unanimously to do so.
To view video of the full meeting click on the link below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0MzuOUPRaA&feature=youtu.be