Keith Fairchild addresses commissioners

Catoosa County resident Keith Fairchild voices his frustration with the housing development planned for his neighborhood on South Wooten Road in the Graysville area. (Catoosa News photo/Adam Cook)

A Catoosa County developer saw his rezoning request shot down by commissioners Sept. 19 after numerous residents complained that additional houses would clutter and alter their rural neighborhood.

Dennis King, who's developed multiple subdivisions in Catoosa County, has a deal in place to purchase 3.5 acres of land on South Wooten Road off Graysville Road with aspirations of building 11 new homes at the site.

As it stood going into the Sept. 19 meeting, King was approved for seven homes on the land, but wanted to add four more, which involved requesting the property be rezoned from R-1 to R-3.

King says the development would benefit the county by offering a remedy to what he called a housing shortage.

"We've done some research, and we have a huge shortage of housing in the county," King said. "I've developed probably 10 subdivisions in our area."

King has faced opposition in previous meetings, as well as at Planning and Zoning meetings, a board which approved his request via a 3-2 vote, and then offered that recommendation to the county's Board of Commissioners.

"I understand that everybody's upset about it, development is hard," King said. "The county needs growth and we've got to have housing. I'm talking about going from seven, which is already approved for, to what actually would be 11. We're only adding four houses, we're already approved for seven regardless."

Keith Fairchild, a resident of the neighborhood, spoke on behalf of a number of residents, and submitted a petition with more than 70 names on it from people living near the proposed development who are against adding more houses to their farming community.

"This is the fourth time we've been here; we have homeowners who've been there for a century, generation after generation," Fairchild said. "We've been there for years. My wife's family owned it for years. This property is actually going behind people that have been there for years and years. There may be a shortage of houses in Catoosa County, but there's not a shortage of property...go down Alabama Highway, it's wide open. This may bring in an extra $20,000 to the county, but what's it doing to the people that live there? We've got 73 people now that don't want this. Either behind it, beside of it, or on South Wooten."

Fairchild also referenced the county's community action plan, which discusses the ideas it has for the future.

"It starts with defining a common vision for the future of the community, a vision based on what the community wants...the community wants, not when one guy wants to make, you know, a quick $100,000 at the expense of the people that have been there for 100 years," Fairchild said. "I don't want one house back there and no one else does either, and you guys wouldn't either if you'd been there that long. I don't want to walk out on my back porch and look to the left of me 150 feet and see 13 Cracker Jack boxes stacked on top of each other."

Fairchild's wife Crystal also brought up concerns about traffic, the aroma of the farmland in the summer months, and the fact that her family shoots guns on their property.

"We have animals...I don't want children coming from a house next door and my animals biting them," she said. "We have kids, we like to shoot our guns on our property...we don't want it. I don't want houses on top of each other behind me."

Resident Terry Bowling thinks the development could mean the possible destruction of an area that his family has lived on for over 100 years.

"I've been there five generations, my family has," Bowling said. "You know and I know that kids are kids, and they're going to wander over there on my place...I raise horses, trade horses, that's how I make a living...they're animals and somebody could get hurt. I want somebody to explain to me what my liability is here because it's changing my whole life up. That's my biggest complaint about it."

Commissioner Chairman Steven Henry tried to emphasize that zoning is just one level of a development process.

"We a lot of times get ahead of ourselves," Henry said. "This is just for the zoning. This doesn't say that he can build anything, it just says that he has the zoning."

Henry informed those opposing that King would have to get an engineer on the project, and then revisit Planning and Zoning and the board with drawings and a plan for the placement of the homes.

"We have a lot of neighbors that's in disagreement with this," resident Glenda Johnson said. "When you consider this, consider how you would feel if this was your family's land. This will disrupt our families.

The board ultimately voted 4-1 to deny the request, with chairman Henry casting the only vote for it.

In a comment at the end of the meeting, Commissioner Bobby Winters claimed King got a raw deal in the matter, even after he himself voted to deny the request.

"I just want to say about the gentleman here building houses...man, he got railroaded, bad," Winters said. "I mean, these people standing up and saying they're shooting guns, they don't shoot guns across that property right now. If they did, they'd be shooting at houses."

Although the rezoning was denied, Kings said he plans to move forward with the seven-house development he's already approved to build.

Adam Cook is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker-Catoosa County area. He has been a reporter since 2009. He can be reached at The Catoosa County News office at 706-935-2621 and by email at acook@npco.com.