published Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Flattening Godsey Ridge

Excavation on Godsey Ridge is visible near the Signal Mountain Road-U.S. Highway 27 intersection.
Staff photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Excavation on Godsey Ridge is visible near the Signal Mountain Road-U.S. Highway 27 intersection. Staff photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press

It’s not Cameron Hill, but another prominent ridge face is coming down for development.

Countless numbers of drivers who ply Signal Mountain Road and U.S. 27, are wondering what’s going on as they drive by a widening scar beside Stringer’s Branch in Red Bank.

For months, dump trucks have been hauling away loads of dirt from the end of Godsey Ridge, the mirror image of Stringers Ridge.

What hasn’t been obvious until recently is that the ridge end is being flattened.

Philip Edmonds, who with his family owns the 13-acre ridge point, plans to excavate the point of the ridge down about 150 feet, to within about 8 to 10 feet of street level. And the family is marketing the site.

They already have had nibbles, according to Edmonds and his brother-in-law, Alex Roberts — including one from Publix grocery stores.

“With the property along Signal Mountain Road going for $600,000 or $700,000 an acre, we said, ‘How can we get in on that?’” Roberts said, referring to the development of a former auto junkyard and the Mill and Mine Supply shop for what is now Walmart.

The site includes the land where Crocker’s fruit stand now operates, as well as the former Signal View Veterinary Clinic.

The entrance to the eventual lowered site — estimated to total about eight or nine acres — would be in that area, said Edmonds, showing a site plan he had developed to obtain stormwater runoff permits for what is now being called Edmonds Borrow Pit.

The family also owns and operates Signal Excavating, so Edmonds and Roberts gradually are doing the work themselves. As the ridge top is excavated, the dirt is being sold to other developers or road departments for fill dirt, Edmonds said.

“It’s slow, but we try to keep it [in sections] recovered with topsoil and reseeded,” he said. “We haven’t had any complaints.”

Changing landscapes

But one man’s future is another’s history. And view.

Godsey Ridge is the twin sister to Stringer’s Ridge, which rises from Moccasin Bend into Chattanooga and Red Bank and parallels Godsey Ridge northward just to the east of U.S. 27 and Dayton Boulevard.

The ridges have seen their share of development controversy.

Rick Wood, director of the Chattanooga field office of the Trust for Public Land, said the development won’t affect the trust’s plan for preservation of 97 acres of historic Stringer’s Ridge closer to Chattanooga.

During the Civil War, Union troops shelled Chattanooga from the end of Stringer’s Ridge on the north shore of the Tennessee River. That created a diversion to allow Union troops to cross the river into Chattanooga well south of the ridge.

“That [part of the ridges in Red Bank has] already been impacted by roads and development, but I wish we could save the view,” Wood said.

“You see a scar there for sure,” he said. “It is sites like that one that have given us the quality of views and made Chattanooga unique.”

The Trust, along with Friends of the Chattanooga and Chickamauga National Military Park and other tourism groups, last year sought a “viewshed ordinance” in the city. They hoped to protect the ridge sides and certain areas from fates like that of Cameron Hill — a once-prominent hilltop that was shaved for Interstate 24 fill dirt and now is the base of the BlueCross BlueShield building.

But John Bridger, executive director of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency, said the viewshed proposal would affect only Chattanooga. He said the Chattanooga City Council put it on hold several months ago “in light of the regional growth plan that’s on the way.”

Bridger said the planning agency hopes to revisit the issue with broader support from the region.

Back to the future

For now, Diane Hart with Crocker Produce said the dirt continues to move away on trucks from Godsey Ridge.

“They’re taking the mountain down,” she said with a smile.

And Edmonds and Roberts said their family has history there, too. The land was owned by Edmonds’ father for about 15 years before he died. It was a borrow pit for all those years behind the old vet office and fruit stand, and much of the flat area behind them once was ridge side.

The east side of the ridge was carved away two decades ago to make way for Corridor J’s extension to Soddy-Daisy.

The west side of the ridge overlooks Komatsu and Walmart.

Times change, the developers said.

“We’d like to see a Publix here,” Roberts said.

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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