David Bennett, mayor of Lookout Mountain, Ga., is focusing on long-term planning, and he talked about plans at the May 26, 2016, meeting of the City Council. He will soon ask for funding to create a master plan for the entire community. Although the town has a planning committee, the master plan will be created by professionals.
Guidelines and design standards for the 23-acre property where the Town Center development will be built will be created and reviewed by the town’s own design committee that is headed by Cindy Whitaker. Four or five RFPs (request for proposal) have already been picked up by developers for the town center project, and the RFPs will continue to be accepted for another couple of months.
A plan to tie a pedestrian trail on Lookout Mountain to the Chattanooga Riverwalk is also in the works. A feasibility study for this project will be funded by grants from the Lyndhurst Foundation and the state of Georgia. Citizens of the town with an interest in the pedestrian path are asked to participate, and a public meeting will be held in June for citizen input.
Zoning is also being discussed by the planning committee. The Chanticleer Inn and Garden Walk Bed and Breakfast are both currently operating in single-family residential zones. The planning committee is considering ways to accommodate the businesses by creating a bed and breakfast zone. The matter should be resolved by the end of May.
Vacation rentals by individuals were also on the agenda at the city council meeting. Recently, the town sent letters to seven or eight property owners who have been renting their homes through Airbnb and VRBO. A city ordinance prohibits this use for a single-family home. Mark Wardell, a resident of the town for four years, has rented rooms in his house 45 times throughout the past year through Airbnb, he told the council. Arguing that this is allowed in cities all over the world, he asked for consideration to change the ordinance. The planning committee has already received a complaint about rentals at one house. City Attorney Bill Pickering said the only way this could be permitted would be to change the law.
Phase I of the Gateway to Lookout Mountain, Ga., Park has been completed. The house at the corner of Lula Lake Road and Red Riding Hood Trail is now gone. Walker County helped the public works employees by providing equipment and additional labor for the demolition and to spread topsoil, and by waiving dumping fees. Phase II including building the arch, will be started in a couple of months and will be built with money raised from donations and grants.
The Lookout Mountain United Methodist Church is an incredible neighbor, according to Mayor Bennett. He told the council that when the City Hall has to temporarily relocate due to construction of the Town Center, the church will offer its building for the town use without charging rent.
A house located adjacent to the property that the city bought for the Public Works facility has been sold, with the closing scheduled for today, May 3. A new pole barn to store salt for the winter will be constructed on the public works property. Mayor Bennett requested and received approval to pay for the building with $15,000 taken from SPLOST (special-purpose local option sales tax) funds.
The mayor also asked for $26,100 from SPLOST to pay for the town’s required 30 percent match to pave Lula Lake Road. The section of the street from the three-way intersection to Turnberry Lane will cost $250,000 to repave. With help from Georgia Senator Jeff Mullis and Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell, $87,000 toward the project will come from the Georgia Department of Transportation. The town will be able to reapply for more GDOT funding after the first of the next fiscal year.
There are a number of PODS that have been parked in some driveways for extended periods of time. The council asked Attorney Pickering to create an ordinance to limit the time that they will be allowed.
Councilmember Taylor Watson said in an effort to keep property values up, the town is planning to enforce an ordinance concerning properties that are not being maintained by the owners, including rentals and those listed for sale. The first step will be for police to issue a warning in response to complaints. After the owner has had time to clean up the property but does not do it, the city will do the work and change the homeowner or place a lien against the property until the fees are paid. Hardship exceptions will be handled on a case-by-case basis, and help will be provided.
Important dates for Fairyland School were given by Councilmember Caroline Williams. The fifth grade field trip to a 4-H camp will be the first week of May. Field Day is May 13, and Awards Day is May 15. The 2016-2017 school year will begin on August 3.
Ms. Williams said that the school has successfully negotiated for Walker County to pay for all grade level teachers for the upcoming year. A full-time computer teacher and a Spanish teacher will be added. There also is a pre-K at the school, which is state funded by the lottery, but the school must request it each year. Walker County considers 36 students per classroom to be acceptable. She said that because of the PTO, classes at Fairyland have average class sizes of no more than 20.
Commissioner Jim Sabourin said that budget discussions are underway and a public meeting and first reading of the 2016-2017 budget will be held on May 19 for input from the citizens. The second reading will take place at the following council meeting on June 16. He also reported that the town is on target in all categories relating to the current budget. “This appears to be another good year for us,” he said.
Jimmy Campbell, head of the Sewer Board, said that negotiations with Brow Wood, Covenant College and Thrive were successful. The three communities will join in a contract for the sewer system with a five-year renewal. The city will buy the sewer lines for these facilities for $350,000, and the communities will pay Lookout Mountain, Ga., a $31,000 yearly user fee. Mr. Campbell said that the cost of the main sewer line following Scenic Highway will be financed with tax free municipal bonds.
The next council meeting is planned for Thursday, May 19 at 5:30 p.m.