MPO approves proposed growth boundary changes
by CHRISTY ARMSTRONG  Banner Staff Writer
May 08, 2014 | 1378 views | 0 0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Cleveland Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s executive board voted Wednesday to approve new budget allocations and changes to the area’s growth boundaries.

The board approved an amendment to the 2014-2017 Transportation Improvement Program for the city that was needed to continue a road widening project.

MPO coordinator Greg Thomas said it was “the next step” in the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s project to reconstruct and widen State Route 60 from the four-lane section of Interstate 75 at Westlake Drive to SR-306.

While the organization had previously devoted $7,600 to that part of the project, the amendment changed the amount to $13,650.

After both Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland and Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis asked if the money was coming from federal or state sources, Thomas confirmed it was simply adding federal and state dollars to the budget that weren’t there previously.

Thomas added the amendment had been available to the public for comment, but the organization received no feedback.

The board also approved another amendment, also requested by TDOT, that will give the Cleveland Urban Area Transit System the money to buy three new minibuses.

The amendment called for the use of $118,974 in federal, state and local monies. The local share was $11,897.

Thomas said nobody from the public had contributed any comments on that either.

After discussion among the local mayors and other board members, the MPO board also approved two changes that redefined predicted areas for future development. The maps that show the boundaries of the expanded areas will be used to help predict future transportation needs.

One measure the board approved was the “smoothing” of the 2010 Census-defined Urbanized Area.

After the MPO’s technical coordinating committee met with TDOT officials, its members recommended expanding the boundaries of the urban area beyond the future estimates that had been created after the census.

Thomas said the committee had sought input from local leaders like Doug Berry at the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce to see which areas companies might be looking at for future development and might need more consideration for future transportation projects.

The redefined area now includes the area surrounding Georgetown Pike and stretches into Charleston and Calhoun, as the boundaries of the Cleveland area are expected to continue to grow in that direction.

Thomas said they also looked at ways to make the map’s areas of concentration stop at more “logical” boundaries instead of having roads be dissected by lines on a piece of paper.

Davis clarified to those present that the changed boundaries of the urbanized area only impacted transportation projects and did not change growth boundaries used in determining changes like zoning.

The board also voted to make changes to the Proposed Metropolitan Planning Area, which can be used similarly to help judge the need for future projects like road expansions.

The MPA map also saw its boundaries moved toward the Charleston and Calhoun areas.

Davis reiterated the change in that area “does not affect the growth boundary,” so “you don’t get into any annexation squabbles.”

Calhoun Mayor John Walker and members of his staff attended the meeting so they could discern how the changes the board was expected to make would impact their town.

“What benefits would Calhoun have?” he asked.

Thomas said the changes would likely only impact major roads that run through the area, and a “good benefit” to the maps now including the Calhoun area could come in the form of TDOT looking at the area for transportation projects that Calhoun might not be able get on its own.

There is a “certain pot of money” that state transportation officials often award to metropolitan planning areas rather than individual cities and towns, Thomas said. For example, there are certain funds that Cleveland cannot use for small local roads, but highways that run through the Cleveland area can see the results of that funding.

Davis said the area boundary changes could benefit the whole county — not just Cleveland.