published Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Hamilton County Commission OKs rezoning: Neighbors of proposed subdivision fear increased flooding

J.C. Goins says a wet-weather stream between his house and the pasture for his cows flows with water year-round because of new construction nearby, and he is concerned about plans for a new subdivision adjoining his pasture.
J.C. Goins says a wet-weather stream between his house and the pasture for his cows flows with water year-round because of new construction nearby, and he is concerned about plans for a new subdivision adjoining his pasture.
Photo by John Rawlston.

In other business, commissioners:

• Received a 2012 budget report from Sheriff Jim Hammond ahead of budget hearings that begin May 6.

• Approved a resolution allowing Hammond to buy unmarked cars for use in undercover work.

• Agreed to a pricing contract with Blackfox Tactical for body armor and other equipment for emergency medical services.

• Accepted the highest and best bids for properties being sold for back property taxes.

Tammy Martin has lived on her farm at 8411 Providence Road for more than 20 years. For all that time, she and her family have enjoyed the quiet country life. But that's about to change -- and Martin is concerned that more than her peace of mind might be harmed in the process.

In a 7-2 vote Wednesday, Hamilton County commissioners changed the zoning rules for a tract on Providence Road in Ooltewah, adjacent to Martin's farm, from agricultural to residential.

Developer James Pratt, who owns the tract, plans to build Hampton Meadows, a 50-house subdivision, on the land.

Martin and her neighbors, J.C. and Rebecca Goins, are concerned Pratt's proposed development may exacerbate increasing flooding problems they say are caused by other recent developments in the area.

Over the past four years, several developments have been built in the Ooltewah-Georgetown Road area. At the same time, water levels on two creeks that run on or around Martin's and the Goinses' properties have increased drastically.

Neighbors say that during heavy rains, water floods Martin's yard and the Goinses' pasture. Even during moderate rainfall, Martin's backyard is under water from the overflowing creeks.

Pratt's development worries the neighbors, because much of the plot on which he plans to build is swampy land and prone to flooding even at normal rain levels.

Pratt's plan is to raise the property's elevation by about five feet to keep it out of the muck. But the neighbors believe that will push more water onto their properties.

"He can build it up to protect his houses, but it's like building an island in a swamp. Where's all that water going to go? It's going to back up on us," J.C. Goins said Tuesday.

Mike Price, an engineer hired by Pratt, says retention ponds will be built on the property that will alleviate flood risks and possibly improve the current problem.

Commissioner Chester Bankston, chairman of the committee that oversaw the issue, moved Wednesday to deny rezoning, but only Marty Haynes was with him.

Joe Graham immediately moved to accept the change, and the measure passed.

Martin said Wednesday she felt the development was "a done deal" and that most of the commissioners started out favoring the developer.

The development could be built regardless of zoning, but Martin wanted to place a condition on the planned unit development that would make Price or Pratt fully responsible for any flood damage. That didn't happen.

"To me, they weren't going to do anything to protect me or my neighbors. My only recourse is I'll have to hire a lawyer eventually [if flooding occurs]," Martin said after the meeting.

Plans for the development still must be approved by the county's engineering department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood program before the homes can be built.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6481.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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