Editor’s note: Article courtesy of Chattanoogan.com
Errors that were made in a city-wide rezoning in the 1980’s are causing problems for the owners of an apartment complex on Fountain Avenue.
At Thursday’s East Ridge City Council meeting, a public hearing on the rezoning of the Sweetbay Apartments at 3623 Fountain Avenue drew considerable opposition from people who live nearby.
Although the apartment complex has been in business for decades, the property was split on the zoning map with part being zoned R-3 residential apartment district and another portion of the property zoned R-1 residential. When the mistake was discovered, the continued use as apartments was allowed and designated as a legal non-conforming use on the R-1 portion of the property.
The building on the R-3 portion has been condemned and must be torn down, but apartments could be permitted there once an application has been made.
The owner, Sweetbay LLC., has been in the process of renovating one building at a time on the portion of land that has R-1 zoning. Two buildings in this zone have been completed. Ten units have been completed in the third building, but these apartments were vacant for an extended period and lost the status that allowed the non-conforming use. In order for the remaining 10 units in the building to be renovated and upgraded, the zoning needs to be changed to R-3.
Citizens opposed to the rezoning believe the additional 10 apartments will bring increased traffic. There was also concern that the driveway is on a blind curve and that there is no place for children to wait for a school bus.
A public hearing was held during the June 14 city council meeting where all interested parties were given an opportunity to be heard. A condition put on the property was that short-term rentals will be prohibited on the entire property. Mike Croxall, the contractor representing the owners at the meeting Thursday night, said he had the authority to commit to requests made at the public hearing such as adding a school bus shelter and flashing lights and mirrors as a way to warn motorists of the blind driveway. City Attorney Mark Litchford told the council that if stipulations are attached to the rezoning, the owner has no choice except to follow them. Vice Mayor Larry Sewell asked to see in writing what they agree to do before a vote is taken.
The council voted to table the issue, so no vote was taken on the rezoning request Thursday night.
A motion passed at the meeting to divert funds that had been designated for a multi-use pavilion on the old McBrien School property to instead build a new animal shelter. Money the city has received from the Border Region designation will be used for the project. City Manager Scott Miller estimated that a 5,000 square foot facility will cost $1.5 million including acquisition of the property and architectural fees. This price estimate does not factor in a full dog park, he said.
The vast majority of people who adopt animals from the city’s shelter come from outside the city, said Director of Community Services Kenny Custer. Events such as those held at the McKamey Shelter can attract many people, and economic development could increase with businesses such as dog grooming and businesses that sell dog treats, said Mr. Miller, and the Border Region allows for parks.
Councilman Jacky Cagle suggested making sure a shelter will conform to the use of Border Region money before voting, however the vote was unanimous to move forward to build the shelter.
The General Fund budget for fiscal year 2018-2019 totaling $13,667,059 passed on second and final reading. The property tax rate remains at $1.3381 per every $100 of assessed property value. Some of the highlights are a three percent cost of living adjustment for all employees and no increase in medical insurance premiums. Five additional full-time positions are funded: three firefighters, one IT technician, one code enforcement officer and one part-time community center assistant. Vehicle and equipment replacements totaling $445,342 are included as well as $46,500 to replace a pickup truck for the waste management department.
The council voted to hire an ethics officer in regard to an ethics complaint against Mayor Brent Lambert. Stephen Greer, city attorney of Dunlap, Tn., was chosen for the position.
Wiser Consultants was approved for engineering services relating to ADA compliance tied to transportation improvement programs. The ADA transition plan is required in order to receive grants for transportation projects.
A resolution authorized the city to apply for the TML Risk Management Pool Safety Partners grant. This grant is used to provide a safe and hazard-free workplace for city employees. Application will also be made for a Georgia Pacific Foundation Bucket Brigade Grant. If received, it will buy replacement gear for the fire department for approximately $18,750 with no matching funds required.
The lowest bid of $26,474 was approved for the purchase and installation of a HVAC unit for the East Ridge Community Center to replace the old one for which replacement parts are no longer available.
Landscaping of the median and rights-of-way on Camp Jordan Parkway at the I-75 Exit 1 interchange will be done by Ooltewah Nursery and Landscape Company for a cost not to exceed $47,800. A change order request in an amount not to exceed $53,076 was authorized for C.W. Matthews Contracting Company for the reconfiguration project also at the interchange.
The council voted unanimously to retain Mr. Miller as city manager for the city of East Ridge. Three percent will be added to his pension. “If I could vote twice, I would,” said Mayor Lambert.
_ Gail Perry