City Council’s Critical Call—Creek Consensus?

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Friars Branch Stream Restoration Project cost the city $1.2 million after new homes were flooded along Hickory Valley Road caused by inadequate stormwater management during the development of Hamilton Place upstream.  The residents dealing with the floodwaters suffered cleanup costs as did the city.  Allowing homebuilders to cover up more surface with impervious homes and paving will continue to make matters worse likely at cost to taxpayers and certainly to water quality. 

Action Requested: Delay your vote on amendments to the Storm Water Ordinance now scheduled for Nov. 21. Ask Public Works staff to call a facilitated meeting(s) with members of the development community and the environmental community to seek a solution that works for the environment and all water quality rate payers.  

Concerning the vote of whether to change the SOV regulation in the South Chickamauga Creek Basin from 1.6 inches back to 1.0 inch, you are faced with what many citizens believe is a critical decision. 

On the one hand, the Homebuilders Association has implied to you that their efficiency as home developers is imperiled if they are not allowed to build with less stringent regulations concerning the amount of rainwater that must be captured on a particular piece of ground in the South Chickamauga Creek Watershed area. They believe the current stormwater fee is too high.  

On the other hand, the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway Alliance and other residents of Chattanooga have said that this decision will make a significant impact on water quality, issues related to flooding, siltation, habitat, and pathogens. Making this change would mean the city would no longer comply with our water quality permit with the state.  

New and additional programs would need to be developed, such as stream restoration projects. At this point, no one is able to tell you how much reconstruction will be required and at what cost to all storm water rate payers in Chattanooga. With these competing points of view and the passionate discussions concerning both sides, you, our City Councilpersons, must make a wise and far-reaching decision. The original 1.6 inch decision was made in 2014 with development and environmental viewpoints represented at the table to consider all sides of this complex issue. This year the discussions did not include the South Chickamauga Greenway Alliance. Why not call for a new mediated meeting again with all sides involved? 

While I appreciate the open public forums the Stormwater Board and the City Council have held in an attempt to put all the issues on the table, these meetings have resulted in a debate rather than a “we-are-all-in-this-together-meeting,” and we must find the best answer for all of Chattanooga. I am not suggesting an easy meeting or set of meetings. This will be difficult.  An outside mediator will probably be required. But a clearer vision of what is being said on both sides needs to be presented in such a manner that nothing will be a surprise to you as a Council, to the Homebuilders Association, or to those of us who are residents. Whatever the ramifications for the future, we must be able to say: “These are all the reasons a final decision was made at this time.”

Franklin McCallie

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