County Commissioners Terry Caywood and Ed Elkins, who both represent the 1st District, asked the planning board members to delay the vote.
“I’ve listened tonight to some of the opposition and I think what stuck with me the most is the lack of infrastructure, the environmental issues and traffic issues,” Elkins said. “I think we could do well if we at least got some additional information before you make a decision.”
Elkins said he would also like to know more about the intended use because that could have a strong bearing on the amount of opposition.
Planning commissioners voted 3-2 to approve the request from Judith Allen to rezone 223 acres bordering Georgetown Road and Francisco Road N.W. from Forestry/Agriculture/Residential to General Industrial. The motion to approve the request was made by Tom Crye and seconded by Bradley County Commissioner Mel Griffith. Voting in favor of the request were Crye, Griffith and Stacey Tucker. Voting against the request were Janie Bishop and Daryl Sneed. Planning Commission Chair Tony Young abstained because he and Allen are employed by Crye-Leike Real Estate Services. Commissioners Lisa Webb, Lindsay Hathcock and Greg Calfee were absent.
Bishop said after the meeting she voted no to rezone the property because she felt more information was needed concerning a plan of utility and transportation services.
Bradley County Planner Corey Divel recommended approval of the request based on the land use plan in which the property is identified as a potential site for industry, primarily as a warehouse. Also, the property is of substantial size to allow plenty of room for buffers.
A string of neighbors and members of the Bradley County Radio Control Model Aircraft Club expressed opposition to the zoning change. One man said his family has owned a farm in the vicinity for 100 years.
“People live in the county for a reason,” he said.
Another said he has owned property since 1973. He moved his family to Tennessee because his former state was careless with individual rights. He planned for his daughter to live on a portion of the property and become a member of the community.
Don Lewis said Tennessee Department of Transportation officials acknowledged at a recent public hearing that Highway 60 is too narrow and outdated to handle traffic. He asked planning commissioners to wait until TDOT provides more information on the route of the new road.
“I moved here four years ago because we wanted to get away from industry,” one of the neighbors said. “Preserve it as rural, the way it is.”
Young said at that point he would allow a couple of more speakers.
“I think we get the gist,” he said. “You are all against it.”
A real estate broker said the land is one of the prettiest places in Bradley County and, “I do not, nor my family, want it turned into an industrial park. What it is good for is raising cattle, kids and families.”
Radio controlled aircraft flyers rent property adjacent to the Allen property. The club president said sandhill cranes and blue herons use the property as well as the 50 club members.
One of hobbyists said he did not want to see any county in Tennessee invite retirees, such as himself, to live on nice, pristine land, then turn around and change it into smelly industrial land.
“Please leave this land the way it is,” he said.
Young said he serves on the Bradley/Cleveland Industrial Development Board in addition to the planning commission because the county is struggling to find space for warehouses. He said Interstate 75 Exit 20 will be retail because it is too cost-prohibitive for industry. Also, he said the proposed Spring Branch Industrial Park south of Exit 20 is still several years away.
He said the purpose of the open meeting was to allow the public the opportunity to guide the Planning Commission, “and that’s what everybody here has had the opportunity to do,” Young said. “We’re appointed members. Ultimately, we have no say in what happens here tonight. We simply make a recommendation to the Commission. They’ll be the ones that have the authority to vote this request up or down.”
Ronnie Davis, pastor of Mount Zion New Covenant Church of God, said he cannot do what he wants to do, but has to listen to the church board and congregation.
“I feel like we should have some say here and some impact on what we’re doing here,” he said. “If we don’t, we’ve lost what it is to be an American — we’ve lost it. Folks, we’ve got to have a stand. We’ve got to say what’s right and take a stand for what’s right. It’s not all about money. It’s about what’s right.”
Young said he serves on the nonpaying boards because, “My total interest is bringing jobs into the community so everyone’s children have places to work so they don’t have to move out of the community to find a job.”
The Bradley County Commission is scheduled to vote on the zoning change June 4.