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Proposed Food City development
Sallie Ford
July 16, 2019, 12:18 p.m.
Dear Editor:

My husband and I are residents of District 8, Sequatchie County and attended the commission meeting last evening, July 15, 2019.  We are opposed to this development in Sequatchie as are many other residents of this district. 

Your reporter did a good job reporting what was said at the meeting last night.  However, she did not report things that are important but were unsaid or were incorrect. While Signal Mountain town flat out rejected the development a year ago, the developer, John Anderson and Food City behind him, persist in their efforts in Walden right now.  John Anderson still has a current zoning application with Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission for the Lines Orchids property in Walden.  The developer withdrew his first zoning application for Walden from the Commission when the supporting Agency, which prepares detailed analysis, recommended that the first zoning be denied. This denial was recommended in their report, because it went against the stated desire in the Walden's Ridge Plateau Area Plan to keep the mountain area's small town, small scale development, and rural character and also to avoid setting a precedent that could lead to a chain reaction of other development down Taft Highway.  This beautiful mountain top could end up looking like Brainerd Rd.

So the developer regrouped and submitted a second zoning application in Walden under a slightly different ordinance, but the same objections remain.  What the Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission will decide remains to be seen. Many in the mountain community have opposed this development for a number of reasons, including keeping the mountain developed with appropriate scale (think small scale businesses, not oversized regional supermarkets), concern over overstated grocery revenue estimates and inaccurate county revenue estimates, concern of road damage from the many more 18-wheelers coming up the front or back of the mountain, noise and light pollution to residential areas, concern over a failed business and resulting large empty and unsightly store, proper equipment support from volunteer fire service (essential new equipment estimated by the fire chief at a minimum of $300,000), and diminished property values.

Last night a couple of commissioners questioned where the shoppers would come from.  They pointed to the residential development on the back side of the mountain in Hamilton County as a likely source. Like some other developments here, that could take decades to be realized.  For all the plans, there are just a few houses actually under construction and even fewer that have sold and are occupied.  Another commissioner talked about the concentration of higher income households at the front of the mountain. These folks would in all likelihood just shop down at Walmart, Food City, and Aldi's just 4 miles down the road on their way to or from work in Chattanooga rather than travel the 6 miles to the back of the mountain and Sequatchie County.  

One real concern that residents have that was glossed over at last night's meeting is the need to change the rule about the sale of alcohol (including beer and wine) within a limited distance of a church or a school to be able to even begin to attract Food City. This district is a conservative, rural district that feels strongly about such a change and it was voted down 3 times, most recently with the last 3 years.  Here it is again.  One wonders if there are other motives in reaching out to Food City and John Anderson, which requires such a change to the distance even before they would consider Sequatchie.  Are we so willing to give up on this principled approach of providing a reasonable distance for the sale of alcohol from our churches and schools just to begin discussions with a developer that is now playing Sequatchie County against Hamilton County. I hope our Commissioners will be careful not to give up something that mountain top residents care about for the chance of something that many don't want.

Finally, like Commissioner Tommy Johnson, the first we heard about this development was Thursday after the commission packet was sent out.  It's interesting to me that Commissioner David Hudson, who was quoted in an article from the Dunlap News dated July 18, 2016, said about running for county commissioner, "What I hope to accomplish -- I want to provide fair representation of the people of the 8th District. I want to use input from the people to carry out their desires for the county." This doesn't seem to be what's happening. At the community meeting last Thursday, David Hudson wouldn't say a word and said that the state attorney told him not to say anything. How could that be and why did he not seek citizens' input?  I did not feel represented by Commissioner Hudson nor did many others.

Sallie Ford
430 Pine Ridge Dr.
Signal Mountain, TN 37377