The Chattanooga City Council passed the fiscal year city budget and discussed contentious planning issues Tuesday night.
The proposed budget passed its first round of voting Sept. 5, but was officially approved during the Sept. 12 meeting.
The budget most notably decreases the property tax rate from $2.309 to $2.277 per $100 of property value, allows for a senior tax freeze, increases the pension for police and fire departments, and allocates money for an extension to Central Avenue.
The budget was passed with an 8–1 vote; Councilman Chip Henderson was the only no vote.
Central Avenue extension
After passing the budget, Councilman Anthony Byrd, Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod and various community members raised their concerns about the Central Avenue extension before voting on the resolution for a five-year plan, which allocates money for this extension, among other projects.
The extension is planned to connect East Third Street with Riverside Drive in an attempt to improve traffic circulation, connect nearby neighborhoods to the waterfront and alleviate stormwater issues, according to the proposed budget.
However, nearby residents are concerned that with increased traffic more gentrification could come to the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
Byrd and Coonrod both showed skepticism for the plans through a series of questions concerning the specifics of the road’s location, the land swap deal between Erlanger and the city, and whether the council would have the opportunity to review the plan before crews break ground.
Community members also expressed hesitation to accept the project because of the possible communal conflicts.
Tom Kunesh, a member of the board of directors of the Native American Indian Association of Tennessee, mentioned his concerns that the construction would violate Native American burial grounds, as well as the past site of the Citico mound. He also mentioned concerns about possible gentrification of the neighborhood if the road is built.
“The park is a red herring,” Kunesh said. “Lincoln Park residents are being sold a bum deal by being told, ‘Settle for this park. It’s not going to matter to you guys, anyway.’ It’s a thousand more vehicles hitting that intersection of Third Avenue and Central that the city has no plans for … That road is going to start the gentrification, the white-ification, of Lincoln Park.”
The resolution was passed 7–2.
Stringer Street rezoning
Another issue addressed was the rezoning of a plot of land between Stringer Street and Cherokee Boulevard on the North Shore.
Wise Properties filed the application to build 71 apartments marketed toward people wanting to live green, with 52 parking spaces and 16 long-term bike spaces. However, nearby residents voiced opposition to the rezoning out of fear the new complex would create intense congestion and unsafe road conditions for those in proximity.
Shawn Trivette, a nearby resident, explained that the current plans for the apartment complex could cause congestion on Stringer Street, as the plans push traffic from the complex onto a road not designed to handle the flow.
The planning commission case report indicates that inclusion of this property should follow the North Shore plan, and that includes orientation … “toward the pedestrian rather than the automobile.” The surrounding neighborhood is already pedestrian-oriented. Many people walk through the area; children often play in or near the street, especially on bikes and scooters and the like. The current proposal would likely disrupt that due to the hazard of increased traffic due to over 60 new residents.
A decision on the rezoning for the lot was rescheduled for the Sept. 26 City Council meeting to allow time for discussions about how to fix potential issues with the complex’s planning.
A full City Council agenda for this meeting can be found here.
Alina Hunter-Grah is a contributing writer. She currently attends UTC, where she was previously the news editor of the student newspaper, The University Echo. Alina also worked at CNN during the summer of 2017 and is the former Chattanooga correspondent for 2nd & Church, a literary magazine based out of Nashville.