June 24 Update:  Melissa Hise, after our June 1, 09 meeting at the Cove community center, reports below that the group voted against the overlay special zoning ordinance and said that there is no need to do anything further on that proposal.  Blackwell Smith, president of the McLemore Cove Historic Preservation Society, attended and agreed with the subcommittee's decision.   Many thanks to Melissa and to Blackwell and his committee's hard work and to all who spoke up about their concerns, pro and con.  We all agreed that the Cove needs to be preserved as much as possible and will search for other means, such as incentives, toward that goal.  A new focus will be on building the community center and expanding programs. --Sid Hetzler

General email update from Melissa Hise about future meetings:  Tuesday, June 23, 2009:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Good morning!!

I don’t think we have gotten all the minutes out from our meeting a few weeks ago but I’m sure many of you heard that one of the very last things that we talked about was revitalizing our Cedar Grove community.  In that regard, I had committed to follow up with the Commissioner regarding a conversation I had with her as well as following up on news reports regarding revitalization of other community centers in the county.  So I’m forwarding my email to her as well as her secretary’s response.  Honestly, I had forgotten that she would be holding a community meeting this Thursday or I would have waited!  At any rate, it appears that it would be a good thing if we, collectively, can voice our opinions about revitalization at the meeting.

Just so you know, we discussed at the meeting new playground equipment, updating things in the center, making the ballfield viable, having community social events like music and the like.  Right now there are exercise classes on Tuesday and Thursday each week so you may want to get involved right now.  You may have more ideas and I hope you do.  Rita Gamlen who is the "holder of the key" to the center and the very small group who have tirelessly tried to keep the center going are very welcoming of any help and interest that any of us in the community have.  We have talked about having another meeting but I believe that we probably need to wait until August or so to give folks time to get their hay up, vacation and the multitude of other things that are taking up time right now. So, I hope you’ll be thinking about things you are interested in doing at the center and let me know if you can’t attend the meeting. 

Oh, and the main topic – the overlay ordinance – the group voted that they were not in favor of such a move and no need to do anything further on that.  I believe that the minutes that Jane prepared are just about ready so perhaps she can email those out shortly.  If you have any questions about that just shoot me an email. 

But, at the least, consider this a reminder that the Commissioner will be holding a community meeting at Cedar Grove Fire Hall is this Thursday, June 25th at 7 p.m.   See you there!

Thanks!!

           Melissa Gifford Hise

Here are the minutes, taken by Jane Bullock, of the June 1 meeting, when among other things, the overlay was voted down.

A community meeting was held June 1, 2009, as a follow up to a series of community meetings about current zoning and future development in McLemore Cove. Melissa Gifford Hise acted as the group facilitator.

Melissa introduced the members of a subcommittee of the McLemore Preservation Society which was formed to review the proposed overlay of the cove. The subcommittee members present were Mark Hise, Bill Scarborough, Jane Bullock, Sid Hetzler and Melissa Hise. This subcommittee had reviewed the overlay document and concluded that it was too lengthy and too detailed to meet the needs of the community and proposed that the overlay be shelved. The June 1 group members agreed to this proposal.

The agenda of the meeting here after was to discuss what restrictions residents would like to see in place concerning future development and to discuss current events and ways to improve the community.

Concerns were expressed about how to define the boundaries of McLemore Cove. Melissa clarified that the boundaries are based on the federal historic designation of the cove and extend from hwy 136 to the end of Mtn. Cove Farms.

Melissa also explained that the current zoning of the cove is agricultural with a minimum building size of 5 acres. The topic of increasing the lot size was opened for discussion. A lively debate followed centered on the conflict between preserving land in the cove and preserving an individual landowners property rights. Many issues were brought up including:

*5 acre minimum is convenient for selling a farm piece by piece and perhaps maximizing profit but doesn't protect the integrity of the cove,

*10 acre minimum would encourage more Òconservation subdivisionsÓ and protect more green space,

*15 acres is the minimum required to qualify for a conservation tax reduction,

*The biggest concern is the possibility of high density subdivisions,

*There is inadequate existing infrastructure to accommodate potential growth,

*With no overlay in place to protect the rural integrity of the cove, we may end up with "cookie cutter" homes in subdivisions,

*We should explore alternative incentives to encourage land protection,

*There were objections to regulating how families can pass land on to heirs,

*There were objections to regulations on how a landowner uses his/her land,

*Farmland is an investment and landowners want the retain the right to maximize that investment if necessary by subdividing or developing.

It was concluded that the subcommittee needs to do further research on the minimum acreage issue. Concerns were also expressed that no decisions should be made on June 1 since a large number of farmers were taking hay and unable to be at the meeting. A majority vote was taken that we want "something" in writing to take to the County Commissioner.

The topic moved to current events, specifically the proposed hotel on Lookout Mtn. and the fate of the cove store and mansion. People expressed frustrations with inadequate and conflicting information from the Commissioner. Many topics were raised, including the large water pipes being brought into the cove. Mr. Burnette related his experience with Canyon Ridge (the developers on the hotel) and their dumping of wastewater on his property. He has been in a long and expensive suit with them. They are also running their water pipes through his land up Lookout Mtn. to water the Canyon Ridge Golf Course. Concerns were expressed that the Commissioner is expecting McLemore Cove and its potential tourism to support the county. It was concluded that representatives of the cove and the Preservation Society need to be attending all Commissioner and County Planning Commission meetings. It was noted that the Preservation Society has previously requested a seat on the Planning Commission but a spot has not opened. There are currently 5 appointed members and they are not required to be Walker County residents. The suggestion was made that we formally request a seat again. It was further suggested that we propose that an adjunct committee from the Preservation Society be formed to review future development in the cove. This was unanimously approved.

The meeting concluded with a discussion about making improvements to the Cedar Grove Community Center (where the meeting was held) . Improvements are needed on the interior as well as the outside playground and ball field. Melissa cited examples in the county where the Commissioner has allocated money to build or improve community centers. It was agreed that we should request funds from the Commissioner for Cedar Grove. Blackwell Smith also noted that the Preservation Society has some funds that could be available for the center.

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General email update from Melissa Hise about future meetings:  Tuesday, May 05, 2009

I finally realized that I had a lot of email addresses that I did not think I had if I would only utilize one of Felix’s old ones!  SO, hopefully our communication woes will be gone.

At the sub-committee meeting that we had a few weeks ago to work on the overlay ordinance, the committee decided that we were uncomfortable with moving forward with much as we did not feel like we "represented" the entire community.  So, we decided to have a community meeting where everyone could come and we could brainstorm and hear from one another.  We had questions, as a committee, about what it meant to be designated as an "historic community" and also what exactly was meant by "Cove".  It seems that the letters the county sent out for the meeting regarding Canyon Ridge encompassed too many people and we felt that we should restrict it some but how much?  Some thought Hwy. 136 south. Some thought Hwy. 193 south.  And, some thought Andrews Lane and south.  So, you see even defining community is in question. 

We decided to have the meeting on May 4th (which was last night) but my husband, Mark, had difficulty in reserving the community center.  We also felt (I actually suggested this) that the community center was a better locale for a "community" meeting.  So, now we think we know who it is that holds the key and the reservation list, we will be getting another meeting together.  Now that I have this list I will email you with the details.  I also plan to put two signs up to advertise – one at 193 and West Cove and one at 193 and Hog Jowl.  And, of course, please pass this along.

One other thing, this is NOT a political thing.  This is not about whether you support the commissioner or not.  This is about being a taxpaying resident of the community and what you think about future development of your community.  One of the reasons that I suggested that we have the meeting at the community center was to stress this point.  And, we may decide as a community to do nothing.  We just want to focus on bringing our community together to discuss the impact of future development and what we as a community think about that. 

Again, I’m sorry for the miscommunication about the May 4 meeting date and hopefully we have resolved that problem somewhat.

Thanks!

Melissa Gifford Hise, Chair, Alternatives subcommittee, McLemore Cove Historic Preservation Society

If you'd like to be on this notification list, please send your name and email address to:  melgifford[ at ] mindspring.com.

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Notice:  As of 5:30 pm Monday, May 4, I'm told there is no meeting tonight per Dana Smith. Felix Coulter emailed me the same info this morning.  I apologize for the error.  Someone had given me this tentative date and time and I forgot it was on this web page.   I don't know when the next committee or subcommittee meeting will be but you can call Blackwell at the number below for more information; he is chairman of the Cove Historic Preservation Association.   Sid Hetzler 

Dear McLemore Cove neighbors,                                    Updated:  April 17, 2009

Click here for a link to the McLemore Cove proposed overlay ordinance with sub-division style zoning restrictions (38 pages in PDF format, which is easy to print for study).  The ordinance was drafted over a year or two ago by Cove resident Bobbi Perra and was emailed to those signing up for it in mid-March 2009 at the request of several of us attending Commissioner Heiskell's meeting on Cove developments. 

Officers of the McLemore Cove Preservation Society are Blackwell Smith, chairman, Antioch Church minister Ronnie Millican, vice-chairman; Felix Coulter, secretary; and  Mrs. Blackwell "Dana" Smith, treasurer; there are no official board members apparently and the officers were appointed about three or so years ago when the original officers passed on their positions.

Felix Coulter's two-page ordinance summary is found at this link.

I will email you a copy of the two documents if you need them sent that way as easy to print attachments.

Here is a link to a Chattanooga Times article published June 7, 2005 covering a McLemore Cove Preservation Society meeting at Hidden Hollow that explains Commissioner Heiskell's and County Attorney Don Oliver's ideas for an overlay zoning on the Cove's 33,000 acres, and she is quoted indirectly as saying that no vote is needed to set up the historic overlay district but that the public should get to express their views on it. 

This page is open below to those wishing to post comments pro and con as a community service.  You can send comments or PDF documents to me at my address below.

The next meeting of residents to hear further discussion on this overlay, which requires only the signature of Commissioner Bebe Heiskell to become law, subject to public hearings and approval by the appointed Walker County Planning Commission, is at  7 pm, Monday, May 4, [not held; postponed; time and date and location to be announced] of the second preservation alternatives sub-committee meeting (Call Blackwell Smith at 706-539-1152 to confirm).     Mrs. Mark Hise will preside; guests are welcome.

Sid Hetzler, 597 West Cove Road, Chickamauga, GA 30707.  Tel   423 618 6651.
Email:  sid [at] splittree.org         


Comments (send yours to sid [at] splittree.org; use the proper email format)

1.  4/2/09   Sid Hetzler: 

The ordinance is proposed by an organization that its leaders claim represents Cove residents and to be the continuance of an organization founded in the 1980s to stop the Georgia Power Co. from building a hydro-electric pump project from the head of McLemore Cove to the top of Lookout Mountain, which John Webb and about  two dozen Cove residents, including me, opposed and with broad assistance, stopped.  Now it seems we have to again fight to preserve our freedoms as individuals and property owners from well-meaning but restrictive public officials and neighbors.   It is not clear to me at this time that the current "McLemore Cove Historic Preservation Society" has the authority to represent individuals and property owners residing within the boundaries of the the Cove as registered on the National Register of Historic Places.  This question will be asked at the next meeting April 2.  It also is not clear what are the exact boundaries of the Historic Place register listing.

At the end of the ordinance, it summarizes as follows:  "This ordinance is the result of entreaty by the McLemore Cove Historic Preservation Society and other interested citizens to the Commissioner's Office.  The undersigned have read the McLemore Cove National Historic District Overlay Ordinance, and do support its intent and content.  We ask Commissioner Heiskell to sign it into law."    I urge you not to support this law and to not sign anything until you have read and understand the restrictions on your property imposed by this "overlay" zoning restriction.

As a person born in this county and valley and a long-time resident and descendant of one of the early families (Coulter), I oppose this overlay for many reasons and urge my neighbors and friends to oppose and and to not sign it if asked.  A petition from those opposed to loss of property rights will be distributed in the near future.  With more time, I will post my reasons for objecting, the main one being that, although I agree that the Cove should be protected with property owner tax reductions and financial incentives, the current planning commission restrictions are adequate--if enforced--and that another subjective layer of a citizen planning commission threatens our  Constitutional rights as property owners and individuals.   We may not agree with all that our neighbors do with their land but they have the absolute right subject to existing laws to manage it as they choose.


2. Sid Hetzler:  As I talk with others both for and against this overlay, the humor of its many restrictions and complicated architectural design approval process is that it seems what amounts to a giant subdivision is being created to keep subdivisions out of the Cove.   Copies of the ordinance are being made by concerned Cove residents and being made available at local gas stations, starting at the Chevron station at Rt. 136 and 193, Cooper Heights.   Please print and pass out copies if you can do that so that residents have the facts about this proposal that so few know anything about even after four years since it was first mentioned publicly.

3.  Sid Hetzler:  If you have any comments for the press, please call Matt Ledger at the Walker County Messenger at 706 638 1859.  Or email him at mledger [at] walkermessenger.com.

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