A rezoning request brought neighbors to the Signal Mountain Council meeting Monday night in opposition to the plan. The owner of property at the corner of Albert Road and Taft Highway wants to sell it and the potential buyer is a developer. The lot is adjacent to commercial property, but Albert Road, traditionally, has been the end of the commercial district on Signal Mountain. The developer has requested a zoning change for the lot that now holds a large, old home, from Low Density Residential to Office District.
“How would it affect property values?” asked Councilman Robert Spalding. “My guess is that it doesn’t enhance it,” answered Vice Mayor Dick Gee. But, he added that a vacant house and yard that is not taken care of does not enhance value either. The recommendation by the Planning Commission to approve the zoning designation to OD was considered to be consistent with the surrounding property and best use of the land, he said, and it is a logical extension of the commercial district. The reasoning at the planning commission was that OD is a step down from commercial and the least objectionable use, since it is not expected that a single family home would be built there.
People who are against the zoning change fear that if it is approved, a precedent would be set. The owner of the house backing up to the property in question told the council that she has been approached by a developer and is afraid that eventually the entire area would become commercial and ruin the neighborhood. “Would you want someone to put a commercial property right next to your house?” asked another nearby home owner. Another speaker asked for more conditions, in addition to those put on it by the planning commission, to be required if rezoning is approved,
The council voted to approve the zoning request with conditions of a 30-foot buffer to residential lots. Parking would be reduced to four and a half spaces per 1,000 square feet of building, and the development must be used as a professional office and must be only one story high. A public hearing on the change will be held before a second and final vote. If it passes and the developer fails to comply with the conditions put on the property, zoning would revert back to Low Density Residential.
Because the purpose of the School System Viability Committee has been fulfilled and completed with its report to the Town Council, the group was officially dissolved with a unanimous vote. The conclusion of the study is that an independent school system would be viable provided that certain obstacles identified in the report can be overcome. A resolution commending the members of the committee for their service to the town was then passed.
Resident of Signal Mountain Melissa Barrett asked the council to hold a public meeting regarding the study of the school system because people still do not know what has happened, she said. People still do not know why the idea was started and what was found and some are confused. She said that the same faces are at every council meeting and that the board might not know what the other people in the community really want.
Alexa Leboeuf, a representative from Action Plan for Educational Excellence (APEX), a non-profit with the focus that every child should have access to a quality education, offered to facilitate a conversation between the groups on the mountain that are for and those opposed to forming a separate school system. She said the organization’s goal is to determine the deficiencies and to reach a consensus about how best to address the problems.
A variance request to erect a message sign near Signal Mountain Middle High School was tabled until the council receives more information. Electronic scrolling message boards are prohibited by city codes, and requests from the school have twice been turned down by previous councils, said a citizen who asked the council to deny the request. Students have other ways of getting information, she said, and the sign would be a distraction to a teen-aged driver. If approved, she said, it would be difficult to deny signs for the other schools and churches. The council will again address the issue at the work session Feb. 23.
Appointments to the town’s advisory boards were made to fill expired terms. Ashley Henry and Doug Fuston were reappointed to the Board of Zoning Appeals. Linda Kelly, Marilyn Garner and Rita Irvin were reappointed to the Beautification Subcommittee. Leigh Althaus was appointed to the Centennial Celebration Subcommittee. Judy Ekiss and Scott Ferguson were reappointed to the Condemnation Board. Ray Boaz, Mike Richards and Brit Reynolds were reappointed to the Design Review Commission. Barbara Womack, Clyde Womack, Anne Hagood, Kyle Kelly, Robert Richie, Jr., Joshua Rogers and Bill Lusk were appointed to the Hemlock Conservation Task Force, and Robert Richie to the Tree Board. Rita Irvin is reappointed to the Historical Committee. Clifton Cleaveland, Brit Reynolds, and Juliana Ratliff will serve on the Library Board. Eddie Smith was reappointed to the Municipal Planning Commission. Tom Turner, Robert Barron and Mark Wyatt will serve on the Recreation Board.
Councilman Dan Landrum reported that a recent fundraiser to benefit the MACC raised $4,000 in cash and another $2,000 in pledges. The money is planned for a sprinkler system in the building.
The date for Sparkle Day will be March 10.
The council proclaimed Feb. 14, 2018 as Frank and Betty Sue Hill Day in the Town of Signal Mountain. The couple has lived in the town since 1959. They have been dedicated to the community, said Mayor Chris Howley and have contributed multiple talents over the years. Mr. Hill builds historically accurate model replicas of wooden ships which are intricately painted by Mrs. Hill. Each ship averages two and a half years to build. Eight have been donated to and are on display at the Signal Mountain Library.