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Community | Articles of interest to the community.
published on 08/25/2006
Dear Signal Mountain Resident
By Contributed Article
We, your Town officials, have heard the concern over the recent changes to the Town’s zoning code. We care deeply about Signal Mountain and its future. From the beginning of this detailed and labor intensive process, we understood the magnitude and importance of what was being contemplated. We have been guided at all times by an earnest and intense desire to fulfill our responsibility to do what we believe is best for our Town and its residents.
The process has resulted in a great deal of public discussion, received a large amount of press coverage, and has had a high level of citizen participation. We are sending this letter so that all residents will have accurate information about the reasoning behind the zoning changes as well as accurate information on the actual changes.
Why were zoning changes considered in the first place?
The Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority (WWTA) was planning on installing a four inch sewer line to serve the new middle/high school and Nolan Elementary. The Town Council asked them to consider a larger line, knowing that development would eventually occur in the Shackleford Ridge area. The benefits of sewer over septic are significant, and we wanted to avoid any additional environmental problems caused by septic systems in our town. The WWTA proposed to install a line sufficient to take care of future needs so long as the Town’s zoning code was changed to allow development to occur around the High School. Thus began the discussion of how to alter the zoning code to allow development while at the same time making sure our Town’s history is respected and our character remains unchanged.
We also believe that completing our excellent educational system may lead to growth, and we’d like to control that growth and benefit by capturing the revenue from the new growth. If we don’t allow moderate growth within the town limits, then it will occur outside our boundaries. That population will still use our infrastructure and services, but we won’t receive compensation via property taxes if they are outside our town.
What changes have been made to the zoning rules?
" We have established the 744 acre Shackleford Ridge Overlay Zone (SROZ) which includes only the land in the Shackleford Ridge area previously annexed by the Town in the 1990s.
" We have allowed a lot size of 14,520 square feet only for sewered lots in the SROZ. If the lot is not on sewers, the current minimum lots size of 21,780 square feet remains unchanged. This remains the third most restrictive minimum lot size of any municipality in Hamilton County.
" We adopted an optional Open Space Zone for the SROZ. The new zone, like the Open Space Zone which applies to the rest of the town has a minimum lot size of 10,900 square feet for lots connected to a sewer. The Open Space Zone requires the developer to dedicate 25% of the gross area of the site as undeveloped open space; and apply for the zoning and undergo review and approval of every aspect of the plan by the Town Planning Commission, the Regional Planning Agency and the Town Manager just like the existing ordinance in all other areas of the Town. By way of example, if a 100 acre tract were to be developed under this zone, at least 25 acres of that 100 acres would remain undeveloped, roads and topography would further reduce the amount of land available for homes.
" We adopted a Planned Unit Development (PUD) option for the SROZ. This zone is virtually identical to the PUD zone that applies to the rest of the Town with no changes in density. Anyone wishing to use this zone must make an application that meets all of the stringent requirements of the zone. They must then gain approval of all aspects of the plan by the Regional Planning Agency staff, the Town Planning Commission, and the Town Council.
" We adopted a new zone that only applies to the SROZ. This zoning alternative allows lot sizes of 10,900 square feet, but restricts the overall density of the development to 2.25 homes per gross acre. This zoning alternative further requires a development site plan and site review before any development can occur. Anyone wishing to apply for this zone must have a site plan approved by the Town Planning Commission and the Town Council in public meetings. This site plan must also be reviewed and approved by the Town Manager and the Regional Planning Agency staff.
" We restricted the permitted homes for all of the new zoning to single family homes, two family homes, and Townhouses as defined and allowed in the current zoning regulations. Apartments or factory manufactured homes constructed as a single self-contained unit and mounted on a single chassis known as mobile homes are not allowed.
Because so many people took such care in studying and creating this ordinance, it has more controls and approval requirements in place than our existing regulations. With that and the fact that it is so similar to our Town’s historic zoning ordinances, future growth under this ordinance will be measured, controlled, and consistent with our Town’s history and character. Without these changes, it is far easier and more economical for development to occur outside the Town where less stringent rules apply and the costs will be lower. The costs of services increase with time and as the mountain population grows, our budget must also increase. We have a responsibility to provide for these increases by allowing our tax base to grow and insuring that our Town remains adequately funded. As Town officials, we cannot allow growth on the mountain to force our Town into financial distress because we refused to allow some of that growth to occur within the Town where the Town can both control it and benefit from it.
Now that this zoning ordinance has been passed, the Town Council and the Planning Commission will be conducting a number of public meetings to review the Land Use and Transportation Plan for the Town. This process will discuss the timing of any development after a sewer line is available and any limitations on development within the Shackleford Ridge Overlay Zone until necessary infrastructure has been developed.
Our commitment to the welfare of this great community is as strong as it was when a large majority of the residents gave us their vote of confidence. We hope the information we have provided will give you a better understanding of the facts and the thoughtful process that has transpired over the last eleven months. We believe everyone needs to have the fullest and most accurate information about this important issue.
Please contact us via email or by phone with your comments, questions and concerns. We value your opinion and look forward to a positive future as we continue to diligently work as your public servants.
William O. Leonard, III
Robert E. White, II
Town Council member
Robert V. Linehart, Jr.
Town Council member
Town Council member
Chair, Signal Mountain Planning Commission