2012 Year in Review: Area growth continuing quickly
by DAVID DAVIS, Managing Editor
Jan 04, 2013 | 1913 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Early in the year, local government set about determining how to deal with anticipated growth in Charleston, Cleveland and Bradley County in January 2012. Now that the economy is developing, officials have been looking at planned growth.

Planning consultant Greg Dale, McBride Dale Clarion, of Cincinnati, explained the process to more than 50 people registered for the continuation of a look at the future they saw in the BCC2035 Strategic Plan.

Bradley County, Cleveland, Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, Cleveland Utilities and Volunteer Energy began working on planning in October 2009, when it was announced the U.S. Economic Development Agency awarded the city of Cleveland a $50,000 grant to assist in the development of the BCC2035 Joint Strategic Plan to address anticipated regional growth.

The total cost of that study was about $221,720. The local share was paid by the participants. The end result of that six-month effort ended in the regional plan that looked 25 years into the future. The BCC Comprehensive Plan is paid for by a 50 percent matching grant of $125,000 from the U.S. Economic Development Agency. Bradley County and the city of Cleveland each contributed $60,000 and the city of Charleston contributed $5,000.

The BCC Comprehensive Plan takes a closer look at Charleston, Cleveland and unincorporated areas of Bradley County than the more generalized strategic plan. It includes a detailed look at the northern corridor around Mouse Creek Road and Interstate 75 Exit 33; the southern corridor around Exit 20, APD 40 and McDonald; the central city of Cleveland, and the soon to be vacated Whirlpool manufacturing plant.

According to Cleveland Development and Engineering Services Director Jonathan Jobe, the team of consultants is analyzing collected data for a draft presentation to the public by March 1.

McDonald residents considered zoning changes and zoning overlays as methods to stop development from swallowing up their rural lifestyle and polluting Brymer Creek.

In Charleston, discussion centered around ways to encourage truck drivers to use the interstate instead of passing through two school zones to get to Bowater, and discussions and in Cleveland, the topics were redevelopment of old industrial sites and infilling older neighborhoods.

Five guiding principles serve as overarching themes for all elements of the planning process and as a foundation for the goal statements:

n The community highly values private property rights and responsibilities. Tools to help the community manage the demands of growth will need to respect this value placed on private property rights;

n The community enjoys a relatively low-tax environment and the plan and recommended tools should be designed to maintain a low tax structure, while adequately providing for the safety and well-being of the current and future citizens;

n Given the strong possibility that the cities and county will continue to face a fiscally challenging future due to national economic trends, as well as the low-tax environment of this region, decisions about the issues addressed in this plan should be made with careful consideration of fiscal impacts;

n The community highly values citizen-driven initiatives, private investment, a market-based economy, and nongovernment approaches, rather than a focus on government-oriented approaches to community development;

n As a result, these multiple considerations should be balanced when making public decisions.

There are different people with different views, but that is the purpose of taking the time to go through a planning process. While there are concerns unique to each area of the county, there is concern the comprehensive planning effort is agenda-driven by outside consultants with “cookie-cutter” solutions to growth.

Local business owner Dan Rawls, who is with the Liberty Coalition and a member of the Bradley County Tea Party said, “My main issue here is that it seems to be an agenda-driven meeting. No matter how you answer most of these questions it always leads you back to their agenda.”

He said the county should not have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring in outside consulting firms loaded with bureaucrats “to give us a cookie-cutter plan that doesn’t fit Bradley County. I think these plans should be drawn up by the County Commission so we have elected representatives, people we pay and that we have the ability to deal with from an electoral standpoint. If we don’t like what the County Commission does, we can vote them out. If we don’t like what these guys do, what do we do there?”

Rawls said people think he is against planning, but the Florida native said he has seen unplanned growth. He simply thinks it would better if the plan was from within rather than from without.

Planning discussions continued throughout the year. Cleveland City Planner Greg Thomas reminded the Economic Development Council why planning for the future is important to local government and the people it serves.

The EDC is a selection of leaders from government, education, utilities, business and industry that meet bimonthly at the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce to discuss development issues in those areas.

Thomas urged them to take an active role in the discussion because he said growth — planned or unplanned — is coming to Bradley County. Bradley County will grow by an estimated 33,000 people, 14,000 new households and 19,000 new jobs by the year 2035.

Bradley County growth is part of larger trends and patterns identified as “megaregions.” The county is part of the “Piedmont Atlantic Megaregion” anchored by Atlanta. However, it stretches east to Raleigh, N.C., and west to Birmingham, Ala.

“It has fingers reaching out to Chattanooga and Nashville which take in Cleveland,” he said.

The low cost of living and high quality of life in the Southeast are but two reasons for this region’s booming population growth. As a result, the area is facing traffic congestion, runaway land consumption and inadequate infrastructure.

Between 2010 and 2050, the population growth in the megaregion’s principal cities of Atlanta, Birmingham, Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte, N.C., is expected to increase from 17.611 million to 21.687 million in 2025 and 31.342 million by midcentury.

But not all of the discussions were pleasant. A flier anonymously distributed in June in neighborhoods south of the old Whirlpool Plant in downtown Cleveland warned homeowners of the impending loss of their property rights, if they didn’t immediately act.

The flier, written as an information handout by an unknown author, stated homes in the area around 18th Street S.E., between King Edward Avenue S.E. and Wildwood Avenue S.E. were targeted for demolition and redevelopment.

“That’s crazy,” Thomas said during an interview in June. It would make no sense for the city to move into a neighborhood and force everyone out. “It’s not true that we’re going to take people’s property. What is true is there will be a redevelopment of that Whirlpool site at the right time. It’s a large site. There will be a lot of change in that area.

“What I would anticipate is more infill type development — housing in that area with maybe some housing rehab.”

Some privately funded housing rehabilitation is occurring now, but other (public) rehab programs might be looked at in the future. However, that depends on needs identified by neighbors in the area and ongoing code enforcement.

“There are some rundown properties in the neighborhood. They are a source of complaint by neighbors and those neighbors have an expectation something will be done about it,” he said. “I think that kind of thing will happen going forward, but as far as the city going in and taking a whole bunch of houses away from people and them having to move — that would be crazy.”

The land around Whirlpool includes three distinct plant sites.

In those three sites, there are 11 different floor elevations, which renders the property unsuitable for future manufacturing applications since most companies desire to be on one level.

Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce Vice President for Economic Development Doug Berry said the old plant was so widely spread that some parts traveled seven miles before they became an assembled stove. That was one of the reasons for moving to the new facility on Benton Pike.

Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland established the Southside Redevelopment Task Force in 2011 to help lead the discussion and decision-making process, because he realized then the biggest issue facing the city was raising public awareness and participation.

That was also the consensus of the task force members who recognized that before redevelopment could occur, there was a need to establish a connection with adjoining neighborhoods.

Berry said at a MainStreet Cleveland meeting, “The first thing I would say is nothing is fixed. The city of Cleveland has not issued a directive to the housing authority to establish a redevelopment plan for a specific area, which is the first legal step. We will not be taking 300 homes. We will not be bulldozing them and that was never the intent — ever. I will tell you where that number came from because I’m the one that [originated the] 300 ‘lot’ number.”

When talks first began with Whirlpool about replacing its century-old manufacturing facilities, the company wanted to remain in the downtown area where there is historical linkage. It is a big issue for a company to break that attachment.

“When we first sat down with Whirlpool, they told us they needed to develop modern manufacturing facilities, that the inefficiencies of these historic plants were so great it was having a bottom-line effect on the company,” Berry said. “They told us they would prefer to do a rebuild in the area of their existing plant. Their first request of me, as a representative of this community, was to provide them a redevelopment option for them to put two half-million square foot buildings in this corridor.”

Such a redevelopment project has never before been undertaken in Cleveland and ultimately, it would require the use of eminent domain. Berry expressed his concern to the company, but he agreed to analyze what it would take to put a million square feet in the neighborhood. In order to do that, it would require buying all of the property between Plant No. 3 and Ocoee Street, all the way to Plant No. 2.

“That’s 300 lots. That’s where the 300 number came from,” Berry said. “I then sat down with the company and explained that I did not think this was a viable option because this community has not been through the process and has no history of ever having used eminent domain as part of its economic development program.

“When you hear about the 300 homes that are going to be taken and bulldozed, that number actually has basis, but it’s not fact in the conclusion of those statements.” He said some use might be found for the Hardwick Stove Plant (Whirlpool Plant No. 2) which is directly across from the Woolen Mill. That would be a tremendous project to anchor a voluntary redevelopment strategy. Plant No. 3 might have interim uses but it will be a demolition job. It will be a brownfield or a new vacant site for development. He expects the buildings that make up Plant No. 1 are worn out after 100 years of continuous manufacturing.

“What do we need to do to successfully redevelop this with manufacturing or distribution or job centers? I can’t lie to people. We will have to assemble some larger tracts from these core parcels, predominantly because of the way companies develop sites now,” he said. “It would be false of me to say we can redevelop there without acquiring some homes or commercial businesses. That’s a given if we want to replace these manufacturing jobs with more manufacturing jobs.”

How that is done is up to the community. Berry said public involvement is critical to set the tone for the city and accelerate broader economic growth in the tourism arena as well as other commercial enterprises.

The Cleveland City Council became embroiled in a 40-minute argument Aug. 13 with Bradley County Tea Party President Donny Harwood over who should apologize for deceiving the public. In the end, neither side admitted wrongdoing.

Harwood approached the Council during the regular voting session regarding what he viewed as an action taken by the Council that impinged on party members’ freedom of speech. The resulting exchange centered around a flier distributed in June by the local tea party and subsequent action taken by the Council on June 18.

“On June 18, I witnessed first-hand the Cleveland City Council and its Mayor Tom Rowland display behavior uncharacteristic of a free republic bound to the U.S., the state constitution and the city charter. With this most recent breach it is safe to say our first amendment rights are imperiled in Bradley County,” he said. “There is still egregious legislation on the books today that has yet to be reversed that limits our freedom of speech.

“Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, with a unanimous resolution vote of 7-0 by this Council ordered an investigation using police force to essentially hunt down, arrest and expose members of my tea party group as we made efforts to inform the community of horrendous plans for their community, thus criminalizing our free speech.”

Rowland said Monday there was no resolution. It was simply a vote taken after he expressed his opinion at the June 18 Council meeting that whoever anonymously distributed the flier should be publicly identified.

“I think this is a very cruel hoax on the citizens of our community. This is sneaky. It’s deceitful. I don’t like it and I don’t like my citizens to be in fear,” the mayor said. He said then it was a gray area as to whether or not an actual crime was committed by distributing fliers containing false information about the future of the area and “whoever wrote this should be exposed to the public and to those people who called Greg (Planning Director Greg Thomas) with fear in their hearts. They ought to know who wrote this.”

The Council voted 7-0 to request the city attorney, police and district attorney’s office to fully investigate the matter to determine if any laws were broken and try to uncover the source of the flier.

The matter was investigated. It was determined no laws were broken and no further action was taken.

Other notable economic development activity in 2012 included:

n The city annexed about 263 acres of land along Durkee Road between Waterlevel Highway and Benton Pike N.E. and a smaller section consisting of about 9 acres bounded by Pirkle Road N.W. and Benton Pike.

The annexation was necessary as part of an agreement with the Bradley County Commission to increase its shared cost of a state industrial access road on Benton Pike between APD 40 and Michigan Avenue Road. The 9-acre parcel was for realigning the intersection formed by Michigan Avenue Road at Benton Pike.

n Shumate Development Corporation of Westerville, Ohio, broke ground Oct. 23 on the first 180 of 324 apartments on Adkisson Drive.

According to information furnished by the developer, the community will have a professionally designed and furnished clubhouse/leasing center with a grand, open lobby, porcelain tile flooring, large entertaining area, theater room, fitness center and large exterior wood deck. Brookes Edge is the second large-scale luxury apartment complex in the city.

TDK Construction of Murfreesboro announced a two-phase plan to build The Retreat at Spring Creek in November 2009. The first phase included 199 units. The second phase of 112 apartments is under construction on the east end of 25th Street.

n Bradley County Regional Planning commissioners discussed the possibility of establishing Planned Unit Development standards in the county. The purpose of a PUD is to provide flexible land uses, flexible design regulations, mixed uses and structures while leaving officials with ultimate authority.

Planning Commission Chair Tony Young said the most likely places for a PUD in the county is along the Mouse Creek Corridor where sewer is available, which would make it subject to annexation by the city.

Planner Corey Divel said the only reason for establishing a PUD district would be for allowing for more flexibility, but he expressed reservations that a PUD could possibly be used to circumvent setback requirements. At that time, the city had approved eight PUD developments including Home Depot, Cleveland Towne Center and Spring Creek.

n Pilot Travel Centers was given preliminary and final plat approval by the Cleveland Municipal Planning Commission during a called meeting Feb. 1 so the company could proceed with renovations and expansion of the former Horizon Travel Plaza at Exit 20.

Pilot Travel Centers took over operations the week before and reopened in early June.

Plat approval was needed before the company could proceed with sewer realignment.

n Procter & Gamble Duracell will invest $36 million over the next three years in its Mouse Creek and Coppertop Lane facilities, and create 60 to 80 more jobs for Cleveland and Bradley County residents.

The investment by P&G Duracell, the world’s leading manufacturer of high-performance alkaline batteries, will be an ongoing project over the next three years.

The Cleveland manufacturing facility is one of only three P&G Duracell plants in the United States and will be the sole producer of C- and D-cell batteries for the Duracell brand. The company’s other manufacturing plants are located in Lancaster, S.C., and LaGrange, Ga.

The Cleveland packaging facility is the only one of its kind in North America, packaging batteries for all three U.S. plants at the Bradley County location. The batteries made and packaged in Cleveland are then distributed throughout the U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America.

n The Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce thanked existing industry for its contributions at its annual Industrial Showcase and Industry Appreciation Luncheon in the Museum Center at Five Points.

Berry said the county has a very unique industrial and manufacturing base “and we in the community are very fortunate to have you here and blessing us daily with these opportunities presented to our citizens.”

He also recognized “the many volunteers and elected officials who work so hard to make Cleveland and Bradley County one of the best places in the country to live. We’ve been very fortunate with our investments. This community has enjoyed over $2.4 billion in investment by industry over the last three years. I think that is unmatched in this state as well as most of the country. The good news is $400 million of that came from our existing industry base.”

Existing Industry Programs Director Lisa Pickel said the manufacturing and distribution companies such as Amazon, Coca-Cola Refreshments, Cormetech, Derby Supply Chain Solutions, Eaton Electrical, Eaton Hydraulics, Exel, Flowers Bakery, Lonza, Manufacturers Chemicals, Mueller Company, MurMaid Mattress, Olin, United Knitting and Wacker Polysilicon represent 3,250 employees as well as 463 cumulative years in operation.

n Bradley County Commission members unanimously approved a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement June 20 for Mars Chocolate North America.

The PILOT agreement covers all personal property acquired in connection with the installation of two new assembly lines for its M&Ms and Twix products, and to expand an existing line for its newest candy, Pretzel M&Ms.

The company initiated $23 million in improvements in 2010, which are not part of the PILOT agreement. The agreement covers $67 million invested in 2011 and 2012.

Mars Chocolate North America announced the two-year project in April 2011 that is expected to add 38 full-time positions to the existing 493 jobs, resulting in a total annual payroll of $40.5 million.

The agreement reduces the manufacturer’s annual tax payments 50 percent on the new equipment for the seven years between Jan. 1, 2012, and Dec. 31, 2018. The reduction results in taxes owed to Bradley County in the estimated amount of $652,588 and $542,755 to the city of Cleveland.

The PILOT is a standard agreement negotiated by the industrial development board.

n The new addition to Cleveland State Community College’s technology center officially opened Sept. 20 in a ribbon-cutting ceremony with members of the Board of Regents and local officials in attendance.

n Total tourism revenues in Bradley County for 2011 topped $112 million, the highest ever, according to a tourism industry report in September. Bradley County’s growth rate between 2010 and 2011 was the second highest in the state, with an increase of 13.1 percent.

According to the latest figures released by the Research Department of the U.S. Travel Association, tourism revenue for the entire state was up 8.7 percent, bringing tourism to a $15.4 billion industry in Tennessee. All 95 Tennessee counties experienced positive growth in tourism, according to these latest figures.

The annual study, “The Economic Impact of Travel on Tennessee Counties,” showed the combined local and state taxes generated by tourists to be $8.88 million.

n Bradley County, the sole remaining government entity needed for the purchase of land for the Spring Branch industrial park, approved $2 million for the land in December.

The resolution passed 11-2 with dissenting votes from 2nd District Commissioner Connie Wilson and Mel Griffith of the 6th District. J. Adam Lowe of the 4th District was absent.

“I appreciate the work of the Chamber of Commerce and the Industrial Development Board. I have supported the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) projects that have been brought to this Commission. I have supported the work they’ve done,” Wilson said. “Saying that, I have concerns with this memorandum of understanding. I have concerns with this Commission obligating a future Commission for money in 2016 … I have some concerns with the government being in the industrial development business.”

She said she is proud of the industries that have been brought to the county through PILOT programs, but this did not ease her concerns about the county owning an industrial park.

Residents Dan Rawls and J.J. Narus expressed similar concerns. Rawls and Narus said they felt the Commission was rushing into a decision.

Narus encouraged the Commission to postpone the vote and gather more information on the success of industrial parks.

“I think it’s a bad move right now,” Narus said. “We just can’t afford it.”

Rawls also had doubts as to whether a government-owned industrial park could be successful in today’s economy. He said the project creates a situation in which government is competing with private industry.

“The taxpayers are going to bite the bullet when this falters,” Rawls said.

He also asked where funding would come from to pay for needed expansion of schools and added law enforcement if funding was already committed.

Third District Commissioner Jeff Morelock pointed out that industry brings growth to a community, which brings in more revenue.

“This is investment in the future,” Morelock said.

Fourth District Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones said she had received 60 calls on this issue on Monday. She said the majority of the callers said they were in favor of the project once they had their questions addressed.

Bradley County was the fourth of four partners to pay $2 million, or one-third of the $6 million debt obligation, including interest, beginning in fiscal year 2016.

All parties have now signed the Memorandum of Agreement between the Industrial Development Board, the city, county and Cleveland Utilities for the acquisition of real property for Spring Branch Industrial Park.