published Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Hamilton County planners endorse Black Creek development

Hamilton County planners on Monday gave developers the green light to pursue a 158-lot residential development at the base of Aetna Mountain near Black Creek.

The proposed development would include single-family homes, town homes and an assisted living facility on almost 90 acres between Interstate 24 and River Gorge Drive.

The planning commission endorsed the plan from developer Ragan-Smith Associates, in part, because the subdivision will fit well with the existing neighborhoods, according to the planning staff. The Regional Planning Agency said the plans "are in keeping with the surrounding development."

The site plan calls for 70 single family homes and 88 town houses, as well as an assisted living facility that will house around 150 residents. The development could have up to 3.5 units per acre.

Hiking trails, open space and wooded areas are included in the plan, and the assisted living facility will be set off from the rest of the development by a wooded area.

The development, dubbed "The Ridges at Black Creek," on the site plan, will sit right at the bottom of the new, controversial $9 million road to the top of the mountain.

"We're developing the valley as we work on developing the mountain road and the mountaintop," said Bryan Rowe, a Black Creek project manager. "It will take several years to get to where we can develop on top of the mountain, so we're working on the valley in the meantime."

That top-of-the-mountain development is expected to envelop about 1,500 of the 3,000 acres on top of Aetna Mountain, and eventually could grow to include up to $500 million in development.

Developers plan to use increases in area landowners' taxes -- any revenues above the current payments landowners make -- to pay for the road. The taxes from this development will not add to that total.

Hamilton County Commissioner Joe Graham, who lives in the area and owns property on Cummings Road, said the plans are not a surprise.

"This is exactly what everyone in our area has been expecting," he said at Monday's meeting, before moving to approve the proposal.

Ragan-Smith Associates representative Alan Jones said the company asked that the property be zoned as a residential planned unit development in order to provide extra flexibility with smaller lot lines.

"The topography is pretty challenging there," he said. "We could do 60-foot lots and really do some damage to the topography, but this allows us to conserve more of the natural terrain."

Resident Kelly Thomas, who lives a couple streets away from the proposed development on Wildrose Lane, said she's glad to hear that single-family and town homes will be built.

"I think it's encouraging and good for the area," she said. "Maybe it would bring more businesses and restaurants out to the Lookout Valley area. I hope it would just increase the value of the homes and neighborhood."

She added she was less sure about the assisted living facility.

"That kind of concerns me," she said, "because I'm picturing something like Greenbriar out in Collegedale, and I can't imagine that they'd have a big hotel-like complex going up."

Rowe said the company doesn't yet have a buyer for the assisted living facility, but he pictures a future facility fitting well into the Black Creek development.

"With the demographics and the growth that we see at Black Creek, both in the valley and on the mountain top, we see the assisted living facility as another piece of that puzzle," he said. He added that the design and height of the building will depend on the buyer.

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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