Thursday, July 5, 2012
As unprecedented growth continues in the eastern part of Hamilton County, officials with the city of Chattanooga, city of Collegedale and Hamilton County are studying the ways to best plan for additional growth in the area.
Collegedale and Ooltewah
“With the widening of Apison Pike, we’re in the growth trajectory for this county,” said Collegedale City Planner Kelly Martin of the city and surrounding area. “Collegedale will experience growth whether we plan for it or not. We don’t want to be reactive, we want to be proactive.”
Collegedale, which is the only municipality of Hamilton County’s 11 to have its own city planner, has begun the process of developing a land use plan that will include opportunities for the community to participate in the planning process. Martin said he hopes to have those opportunities available later this summer or early this fall.
“I will concoct a way that everyone hears about the plan and that will be your opportunity to sit down at the table and have a free flow of ideas,” he said. “You will definitely hear about it in Collegedale and that will be your opportunity to let us know what you would like to see here.”
At a recent economic development summit hosted by the Ooltewah/Collegedale Council of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, District 4 Chattanooga City Councilman Jack Benson described the area’s leaders as progressive because of their anticipation of growth and the opportunities they are seeking through that growth.
“I know that the most progressive, forward-thinking group in the county is on our eastern borders of the city of Chattanooga,” he said. “Progressive is not a dirty word, and I really appreciate you working with the city because we’re going to be proud of what you’re doing out here.”
This year the Ooltewah/Collegedale Chamber Council implemented an economic development committee under the leadership of member Joshua Michalski as a way to help local business leaders get in on the developments and work to bring more job opportunities and business to the area.
Chattanooga and Hamilton County
In addition to Collegedale’s land use plan, Karen Rennich, deputy director of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency, listed three studies her agency is working on that may be helpful to local government, businesses and residents as they anticipate additional growth in the area.
“The city of Chattanooga asked the RPA to look at housing and some concerns with whether the current market and climate are receptive to all kinds of housing,” she said. “Particularly with apartment complexes, there is a lot of resistance with existing neighbors, but also as population ages and changes we want to look at the market and see if there are things in place to accommodate that.”
The results of that study, which Martin said he is particularly interested in, are tentatively planned for a public presentation in September or October, according to Rennich. In addition to the housing study, she said the RPA is also working to complete a transportation study that outlines suggestions for the area up until the year 2040.
“We are looking at what are current changing transportation needs, and looking at ways to make sure that appropriate services are in place for those needs,” said Rennich. “We’re looking at all kinds of transportation needs including railways, greenway and bike paths.”
The RPA is also planning with other local groups like the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce to complete a regional growth plan that outlines and anticipates growth in Hamilton County and 16 other counties in the tri-state area.
“It’s probably one of the most ambitious growth planning processes attempted in this country,” said Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Public Strategies Rob Bradham. “We haven’t gotten to the point of rolling the public process out yet, but we envision it will be highly citizen-led in the development of the 40-year growth plan. If we do a bad job of getting your input on what you see as part of the plan, we have failed.”
According to Bradham, local officials plan to officially kick off the public participation part of the study in the next several months.