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published on 07/11/2006

Council Passes Zoning Amendments Ordinance

By staff writer

“We are all dedicated to the high quality of life of this community…we have been out front, open and presented the facts in a forthright manner.” --- Mayor Bill Leonard, July 10, 2006.

These words spoken by the mayor set the tone for the regularly scheduled meeting of the Town Council, which began at 7:00 pm in the Town Hall. Also present were Vice-mayor Steve Ruffin and Councilmembers Bob Linehart, Lizetta Paturalski, and Robert White. In addition the town attorney, Phil Noblett, town recorder Sherry Morrison, assistant town manager police chief Boyd Veal, and town manager Diana Campbell were present.

The Town Hall was filled to capacity with standing room only including three television station cameras and staff to capture the proceedings of the meeting.

After the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and opening prayer given by Vice-mayor Ruffin, the town recorder called roll. Minutes from five meetings, including the last regular meeting in June were approved as corrected.

Business began with the approval of six resolutions. The first authorized the Town to participate in the Tennessee Municipal League (TML) “Safety Partners” grant program. This requires the Town to spend already budgeted money on safety equipment and be reimbursed for half of the expense. The second appointed Chuck Gearhiser, Jr., the town inspector to the Hamilton County Waste Water and Treatment Authority (WWTA) replacing Bob Linehart who had temporarily held the position when Hershel Dick retired and left the position.

The third resolution approved authorizes the Town to enter into and renew a contract for medical benefits for Town employees. Although the coverage is the same it reflects a 20% increase in rates, but according to Diana Campbell, “After two years of decreases in rates, this brings the town back to where it was before.” Mayor Leonard noted that after considerable shopping around, these rates were still the best found. In another resolution, the contract with the insurance company for dental insurance for Town employees was renewed after the town manager was able to negotiate with the agent to keep the same rates. The fifth and final resolution on the agenda was one authorizing the purchase of a police car for the department. All resolutions presented were approved.

Mayor Leonard then asked the town recorder to read a resolution approved at the special called meeting on June 26th. This resolution commended Connie Pierce, Signal Mountain Town Librarian, for fifteen years of public service to the Town of Signal Mountain. A representative of the Library Board responded by thanking the Town Council on behalf of Connie Pierce and encouraged the Council and town manager to continue their support and efforts to keep the momentum and success of the Library going. Mayor Leonard responded by saying that the Town fully intended to replace her. He went on to report that a reception at the Library on Friday, July 7th, was given by the Library Board and Friends of the Library to honor Connie. He then led everyone in a round of applause to honor her.

Mayor Leonard asked Phil Noblett to review the Shackleford Ridge Overlay Zone Amendment changes, which were a direct result of the meeting of the Planning Commission held July 6, 2006, at the Town Hall. After hearing the public and reviewing the original ordinance, the Planning Commission revised each of the sections to reflect concerns brought to them by the public and members of the Town Council. The result was a less dense and more flexible plan for development.

Mayor Leonard then opened the Public Hearing regarding Shackleford Ridge Overlay Zone Amendments and an energetic discussion followed, which lasted almost two hours.

Afterwards, the Public Hearing was closed and the regular meeting resumed and the members of the Town Council voted on the Ordinance one section at a time. The first established the zone itself; the second pertains to the projected area for sewer lines and is restricted to the Overlay Zone and not throughout the rest of the Town; the third section provides for reduced lot sizes in the Overlay Zone to 1/3 acre lots, if on the sewer line; the fourth section pertains to the open space design including establishing buffer zones to wetlands and natural vegetation and protection of wooded areas as well as requiring lot sizes on sewer lines to be the same as the current zoning ordinance applied within the Town. Also, in this open space section, a minimum of 25%, which does not include road right of ways, of open space must be maintained which is also what the current zoning ordinance allows. The fifth section provides for the Planned Unit Development (PUD) option, which also reflects the current Town laws. however it does improve the process in which a PUD is approved. Finally, the last section pertained to the density of the residential design option. Two parts to this section were amended before being approved. One changed the minimum size of the lots from 9,600 to 10,900 to be consistent with the open space lot sizes and also reduced the density to 2.25 units per acre, which was considerable concession from the original amendment, which had it at 3.0.

A voice vote on each section of the ordinance was called and each passed four to one with Vice-mayor Ruffin voting no each time. A second reading and Public Hearing will be held at the next regular meeting on Monday, August 14th.

Because of the discussions during the Public Hearing and the late hour, most of the Councilmembers passed on the opportunity to address the public. As is in most meetings, comments made by the Council are rarely heard as many observers leave early, as was the case in this meeting. For some the hour (it was after 10:00 pm) was a determining factor but for others it was disappointment in the vote. And for the television stations, it was a deadline to air the actions and behavior observed at the Signal Mountain Town Council Meeting.
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