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Fort Oglethorpe approves annexation, rezoning for proposed housing development

Fort Oglethorpe has approved the annexation and rezoning of an 18-acre piece of property that is slated to be the site of 60 new homes.

The City Council gave the annexationrezoning requests — after being tabled for nearly two months — the green light at its Dec. 11 meeting.

On Oct. 23, Justin Hunt of HTH Development appeared before the council for the third and final reading of his annexation request to not only annex his 18-acre lot at 990 Steele Road into Rossville, but to also rezone the property to an R-5 designation for the planned development of multi-family homes.

That plan was met with resistance from numerous residents during the hearing, many of whom voiced traffic and stormwater concerns, as well as the fear that apartment complexes would be constructed, a notion Hunt quickly shot down.

"I have 18 acres there and I'm proposing 60 homes on 60 lots, which actually comes out to about three and a half homes per acre," Hunt said. "It will not be apartments. It'll be houses. ... I'm in the business of building homes and selling them and that's what I plan on doing. We're talking about building 1,500- to 2,000-square-foot homes ... pretty nice homes in a pretty nice subdivision."

During that meeting, the council opted to table both requests in order to perform a two-week traffic study of Steele Road and Mack Smith Road.

During that time, the Catoosa County Board of Commissioners learned of the requests and pointed out that the city hadn't filed the property paperwork for the annexation.

That issue was addressed by County Attorney Chad Young during the Nov. 7 commission meeting when he explained that cities are required to notify the county within five days of receiving an annexation application.

"When the city receives the application, they're supposed to send the county a notice via certified mail within five days, and with that notice, they're supposed to provide a map of the property and the annexation application," Young explained. "The city missed that deadline. They actually proposed to consider this matter at their meeting on Nov. 13, but we (the county) did not receive this until Nov. 2. The application was filed back on Aug. 4, so obviously, we did not get notice within that five-day time period. The city has requested that the county waive that five-day notice period."

Commissioners ultimately waived the five-day notice, but Hunt and the city of Fort Oglethorpe did have to wait an additional 30 days from Nov. 2 to hold a vote for the annexation.

On Monday night, Dec. 11, that public hearing was held again. No residents offered feedback, either for or against, the annexation and rezoning despite more than a half dozen doing so in October.

The council unanimously approved the annexation and approved the rezoning with a 4-1 vote. Councilwoman Rhonda James voted no.

As far as the traffic study the city ordered in October, City Manager Jennifer Payne-Simpkins says the study revealed expected high traffic counts for the roads, which prompted the city to explore ways to alleviate the congestion.

"The results of that study, in sum, both Mack Smith and Steele Road were measured for a two-week period," Payne Simpkins said. "Steele Road had an average daily vehicle count of 3,345 vehicles and an average daily speed of 23 mph, with the peak traffic being from 7 to 8 a.m. and 5 to 6 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on weekends. Mack Smith Road had an average daily vehicle count of 10,318 vehicles with an average speed of 30 mph. The peak on weekdays was also 7 to 8 a.m. and then 5 to 6 p.m., and on weekends from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m."

In October Hunt mentioned that he'd be willing to donate a portion of land near the Steele Road/Mack Smith Road intersection to the city to help with possible road improvements.

Hunt stuck to his word at the Dec. 11 meeting by offering a little more than an acre to the city for a possible round-a-bout.

"You (council members) asked that we explore the idea of doing a roadway improvement such as a round-a-bout at Steel Road and Mack Smith Road," Payne-Simpkins said. "A preliminary round-a-bout design and preliminary survey have both been completed at the site. The land donations include 1.31 acres from ERTH Properties and 0.18 of an acre from Emerson Properties LLC for a local roadway project based on future funding availability."

The city unanimously approved the land donation.

Fort Oglethorpe community reaches out to police officer

Police officers are people who tend to rally around each other when the going gets tough. That has been the case with the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department and one of its own, Lt. Ray Bowman, who is suffering from pancreatic cancer.

As the holiday season approached, Detective Tammy Davis thought it would be nice to try to raise some money to help the Bowman family with Christmas. "Usually Ray would have been working several extra, off-duty jobs earning his family's Christmas money," says Chief Mike Helton, "but his health did not allow it this year."

The effort to help expanded beyond the police department because officers felt the public would care enough to get involved, too. Davis set up a donation page online with a specific funding goal, and the belief that the community would care has proved true. "Some people have expressed an interest in continuing to help," says Helton, "because they understand that Ray's medical expenses are just beginning." Officer Brad Palmer posted on the police department's Facebook page: "We are so happy to say that we have not only met our $2,000.00 goal

but we've exceeded it! There has been such an outpouring of love, kindness and generosity for this family that it has touched all of us here at Fort Oglethorpe Police Department and we are so thankful for you all! Without all of you we could never have reached this goal! We would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and thank you for your love and support!"

Palmer closed with this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: "The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well."

If you would like to donate (and to see how the community has reached out to the Bowman family), visit Donations are being accepted at this site through Christmas day.