EXISTING CONDITIONS & TRENDS
Other than the area around Hamilton Place Mall, East Brainerd had a high tree canopy coverage (74%) before the 2020 tornadoes. Currently, no data is available on the extent of tree canopy loss caused by the April 12, 2020 tornadoes.
While Chattanooga has requirements for planting trees along the street, in parking lots, and in green buffer areas between some developments, these regulations only apply to new commercial and multi-family development, or for redevelopment, with a 25% or more increase of already built sites. Single-family detached homes are exempt, so the land for a new subdivision can be clear-cut with no regulations for replanting any of the trees.
Floodplains & Stormwater
Area 11 contains 1,238 acres of land in the 100-year floodplain and floodway. If you subtract out the floodway (which cannot be developed) and public parks, that leaves 836 acres. Currently, most of that 836 acres is sparsely developed, however 68% of it (or 568 acres) is zoned R-1 Residential for single-family homes, which allows up to 5 dwellings per acre to be built.
Impervious surfaces, such as buildings, roads, parking lots, and other paved surfaces, encompasses 16% of all land (1,150 acres) in Area 11, most of which is concentrated around Gunbarrel Road, Shallowford Road, and East Brainerd Road. The City of Chattanooga has regulations to prevent stormwater run-off from new development onto other properties, but many of the buildings and parking lots within Area 11 were built before these regulations went into effect in 2014. If a site is re-developed, the stormwater requirements only apply if the impervious area is expanded.
The current regulations:
- Allow complete clearing and filling in the floodplain, provided there is no increase in off-site run-off.
- Require a minimum natural buffer along streams.
- Require all structures built within the floodplain to be elevated one foot above the 100-year floodplain elevation.
Between 2017 and 2019, the City’s 311 service received 70 flooding-related calls from Area 11. These calls included inundated private property, clogged storm drains, and culverts, and flooded or damaged streets.
Scientists have documented the relationship between the increase in impervious surfaces and negative impacts on water resources, including deteriorated water quality, habitat, and biota. Nearly 86% of all creeks and streams in Area 11 are considered impaired, meaning they do not support various uses such as providing for aquatic life, recreation, industrial water supply, or domestic water supply.
Parks & Greenways
With three publicly accessible parks—Jack Benson Heritage Park, Audubon Acres, and Batter’s Place—Area 11 has 4.89 acres of park space for every 1,000 residents. The National Recreation and Park Association recommends 10 to 15 acres for every 1,000 people. However, as with most suburban areas, yards tend to be larger, providing many people with private outdoor spaces to relax, play, and exercise.
Greenways are often built along rivers and streams, or man-made corridors, such as utility lines or abandoned railroad lines. All three of the parks mentioned above are located along creeks or streams. The City of Chattanooga currently has nearly 35 miles of Greenways, including the Riverwalk, but none are located in Area 11.
OPPORTUNITIES & CHALLENGES
Mature trees are among the most valuable and productive natural resources of a community.
- Filter pollutants
- Cool summer temperatures and reduce energy bills
- Protect biodiversity
- Absorb stormwater
- Increase property values
While trees offer these many benefits, property owners are often concerned about potential damage to homes and businesses during storms. Selecting the correct tree species, the correct placement of the trees, and their proper maintenance can help prevent property damage during high winds.
Floodplains & Water Quality
Floodplains provide many benefits including:
- Absorbing floodwater
- Reducing pressure on man-made flood protection structures like levees and dams
- Improving water quality by filtering pollutants before they enter streams
- Reducing stream bank erosion
- Providing wildlife habitat
- Replenishing underground aquifers
- Providing recreational opportunities (fishing, bird watching, greenways)
- Reducing flood insurance and disaster recovery costs
- Providing land for some farming
New housing development can be designed to preserve creeks and floodplains by clustering development in other parts of the site.
However, because floodplains are flat areas near bodies of water, they are also very attractive for development.
While many “point source” pollutants from industrial sites of past decades are no longer a major issue, “non point-source” pollutants from parking lots, streets, and construction sites have become more common and, in some ways, are more difficult to identify and regulate.
Parks & Greenways
The benefits of parks and greenways are numerous and well documented.
- Protect sensitive natural resources and core habitat
- Absorb flood water
- Improve air and water quality
- Provide recreation opportunities, which can improve personal and overall community health
- Serve as transportation corridors for cyclists
- Increase nearby property values
- Increase the competitiveness of entire communities
The likelihood of new city-owned parks being established is limited due to private land ownership and the required construction and maintenance costs of new parks with limited staff and funding. However, partnerships with non-profit organizations, private businesses, churches, and schools may provide opportunities for new parks and greenways.
NATURAL SYSTEMS, PARKS & GREENWAYS: CONCLUSION
Trees, floodplains, creeks, parks and greenways provide many benefits to individuals and to the community as a whole. People need open space and recreation opportunities for their physical and mental health. However, these elements interact with, and are altered by, the built environment, therefore attention must be paid to maintain them in a healthy and beneficial state, while still allowing for new population growth and development. How might the natural systems of Area 11 be improved? How do you want to use the open spaces available to you, and what might you want to see added to them?
Please contact Pam Glaser, Principal Planner, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 423-643-5911.