Transportation will be the main topic of discussion when the BCC 2035 Joint Strategic Plan public forum on Aug. 19.
Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Farlow said upgrading transportation, sewer, water and other infrastructure improvements tend to be viewed as expenditures instead of investments.
He suggested the mindset needed to change and consideration given to investing in parts of town with drainage problems or pockets within growth areas without utilities.
“It is the same with schools,” he said. “Where do you want growth to go? Schools tend to be a generator of growth around them. You can use public policy and public expenditures to guide where you want it to go.”
Planning consultant Greg Dale of McBride, Dale & Clarion in Cincinnati, said local discussion was consistent with public policy set through state and national sustainability programs. Major sustainability grants are going to be available in the future, though he said, everything can’t be solved with federal dollars.
Task force member Mickey Torbett said while there is an expense to infill development, there is also a savings to looking inward versus expansion because police and fire services are already available without having to expand to new subdivisions.
“You don’t have to expand services,” he said. “You may have to spend money improving infrastructure, but you’ve got a cost savings automatically built in. I think there is a very large cost savings in redevelopment from that side.”
McBride said development has an impact on transportation as well as utilities. Theoretically, infill development places more traffic into a smaller area.
“It looks like you have more congestion as opposed to the sprawl pattern which is spreading it out all over the network,” he said.
While sprawl does not necessarily meet the definition for traffic congestion, more vehicles are being put onto inadequate rural roads. Upgrading rural roads ends up costing more money in the long run.
“We may see some immediate traffic — a shock to the system (as a result of infill development), but then there is a question of the long term,” he said.
Cleveland Community Development director Greg Thomas said the planning process will help show elected officials how growth impacts the overall system. For example, widening a seven-mile stretch of Mouse Creek Road is now estimated to cost $50 million. The cost is driven upward because of the number of driveways that have to be replaced.
“It really takes it out of the realm of possibilities,” Farlow said.
One way to limit the number of driveways is to reclassify the road. Instead of lining houses alongside a road, they could be moved back with a number of homes sharing a common drive.
McBride said the models utilities and governmental agencies have used in the past will not work in the future as the county population continues growing. He said county zoning is used to prevent egregious things from happening. The number of homes and population allowed in the county are basically urban density.
“It is not used as a management tool,” he said. “It’s really designed to stop the really bad stuff from happening.”
He said the 500-pound gorilla is defining the role of property rights and the expectation of landowners without trying to impose Williamson County regulations as a solution to Bradley County. Planning probably needs to be tilted toward the use of incentives and tying that to services and infrastructure. People want to live in the country and then complain because the school bus is late, they expect garbage service and urban levels of service.
“The expectation is that rural areas will get rural services,” McBride said.
Three proposed planned-growth scenarios will be evaluated using 10 common goals for the Cleveland, Charleston and Bradley County jurisdictions. One of the scenarios or a combination of the three will be selected later this year as a recommended course for regional growth over the next 25 years.
Growth in the Cleveland and Bradley County over the next quarter-century could increase the population by 30,000 people, add 19,000 jobs and produce14,000 more housing units. Given these expectations, local jurisdictions paired with the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, Cleveland Utilities and area school systems to commission the growth study.