Saturday, February 28, 2009

Well, it's been over 2 weeks since my last blog. It is harder to keep up than I thought! At least my blog has gotten some attention. The saw fit to publish the entire blog up to that point ( I didn't know exactly why they decided to do that (most of it had nothing to do with the article they wrote), but it is said that all publicity is good!

Seriously, a quick update on town business, then maybe a few personal notes. We had our monthly work/agenda session this past Monday. Several issues were reviewed. I have been attempting to overturn the ban on rock climbing in Signal Mountain. There have been several concerns raised by town staff including issues of safety and risk to rescue personal, raised by the fire and police chief, and issues of liability raised by the town attorney and our insurance carrier. Obviously, these are large obstacles and I have great respect for all of our town staff. Because of these objections, our town manager feels she must support continuing the ban, which I understand. Susan Robertson proposed we end discussion and vote to keep the ban. I was able to mitigate this a bit and offered an amendment to continue the ban until the concerns raised by staff could be addressed. I was gratified that the Council accepted this unanimously. This is obviously a high hurdle. I have informed the climbing community, who have been very active in this issue and some may continue to pursue this. I think it will require input from some more expert than I in this area. I do hope that eventually the ban can be repealed, at least partially, but think it may take some time and work.

The issue of commercial development continues in the form of some possible expansion on private property. I would like to reiterate that I do not oppose commercial development in Signal Mountain or even possibly new commercial zoning. However, I cannot imagine supporting any further proposals to sell town property for commercial development, especially in the town hall area. We went through an extensive Land Use process recently and identified the areas for commercial zoning. We have worked with TVA to look at ways to attract business to the town, mostly retail. I have been very active in trying to figure out ways to make it easier to do business in Signal Mountain and have had many discussions with local business owners. Bill Lusk asked me to take over his position as liaison to the DRC and I was happy to do so. I met with them that evening (last Monday) to introduce the idea of reviewing our sign ordinance to bring it up to date.

Other good news from that night, there is a new bakery/coffee shop opening on James Blvd at the entrance to the Orchard (just down from Thrasher). They plan to open April 18. Since this is walking distance from my house, I am quite excited. Let's help make them a success!

I should state that, philosophically I am very supportive of market forces and I think that if there is a market for commercial enterprises on Signal Mountain, they will come. At the same time I think there is a limit to that market. I think that most of the businesses up here will serve the local residents (I really don't see Signal Mountain as a "shopping destination" any time soon). We may be close to saturated right now based on our population and the economy or there may be room for more. I don't know, but I think the government's job is to make it as easy as possible to do business on Signal Mountain while doing what we can to preserve our quality of life and our local environment. I think that with most quality businesses that is very doable.

OK, I've already gone on too long. I did want to do some personal comments. My son, Nathaniel was accepted to Governor's School for the Arts this summer in Filmmaking! He also was invited to the National Honor Society at Notre Dame HS. My daughter, Mary Eliza had her first piano recital this past weekend and got a "Superior" rating from the judge! I just gotta brag on my kids and give their mother all the credit. Snoda has been so tolerant of all my politicking and I appreciate the support that she and the kids have given me.

I'll try to blog more frequently and less "longly" in the future.

Monday, February 09, 2009

I said that I would post a review of my campaign positions and how I have addressed them. Here it is. This is from my original "issues and positions" site on my webpage with "updates" in bold. I hope to hear from citizens about whether they agree or not.


In the area of future development, I believe we should:

Be sure appropriate infrastructure is in place before any development moves forward. This includes considering traffic, schools, town services and environmental impacts. While aesthetics are harder to quantify, they are also clearly a priority for the citizens of the mountain.

We have completed a traffic study which showed minimal impact on traffic by development in this area. Sewers are in place for the area although the moratorium prevents their use. The current schools have extra capacity as I understand it, but clearly this is the responsibility of the school board. Town Services, etc must be considered on an ongoing basis.

Traffic studies must be completed and considered before any new development should go forward.

See above

Require new development on Shackleford Ridge to have paths which allow and encourage pedestrian and bicycle access to the new schools. Look for similar opportunities in other areas of town.

This is still my desire although my input has been diminished since I was removed from the Planning Commission.

Consider strongly the idea of Development Impact Fees and investigate legal changes needed to apply them. If legally possible, these should be based on the square footage of the homes built.

This was researched and is not legally doable in Tennessee.

Investigate possibilities for extending sewer service into existing areas of town.

We continue to work with the WWTA and hope to develop a town wide plan. This has taken a backseat with the moratorium and all the WWTA’s political problems.
Seek out consultation from experts in town planning to advise best use practices which are consistent with the town vision statement.

We brought in Randall Arendt and I am very supportive of his advice and vision. I hope it will be used to significantly influence future subdivision and zoning plans.
Water run-off into the sewer system is an issue that will need to be addressed in the near future.
We continue to support WWTA with its service lateral program which will significantly help this problem. They have completed the lining project which also helps.

It is important to remember that there are other issues before the town. In the area of safety, I would encourage:
· efforts to decrease speeding in neighborhoods.
Subdivision regulations with narrower streets and more curves will help in this direction.

· looking for opportunities to create bike paths and sidewalks
Our new Transportation Committee will hopefully contribute to this effort. I continue to support requiring sidewalks in all subdivisions and hope this will be part of the subdivision regs.

· continuing to support our police, fire and EMS departments to have state of the art equipment and techniques to keep us all safe.
I believe our budget priorities show this support and that we have improved quality and morale.

I strongly support recreational opportunities on the mountain. My children have played most sports up here at one time or another. We must maintain our recreational facilities and look for opportunities to expand these. I would like to see the town look into acquiring or having use of the gym and football field at SMMS when the new middle school opens.

I continue to hope that whatever proposal the School Board accepts will allow for this, however I realize this is hard for us to control. I would support any reasonable efforts in this direction.

In addition, we must support our cultural and artistic activities. The MACC is a tremendous resource for this mountain which should be supported. I also want to continue strong support for the Signal Mountain Playhouse. The Signal Mountain library is a unique resource. It should continue in its current location and I agree with its supporters that contributions to the library should be used for the library and not to offset the Town's contribution.

I am liaison for the MACC Board and have worked to improve communications between the MACC and the Playhouse. I still strongly support the transfer of the MACC to town ownership and hope this will happen during my term.

I would love to see more social opportunities for our youth. Scouting and church youth groups obviously serve an important role in this area. The new middle and high school will also be a great asset in this regard. Opportunities to expand and add to these options should be sought.

One step has been the beginning of the “Coffee House” music performances at the MACC on the last Saturday of each month. I hope to see these expand to allow young musicians and other performers a venue and a place for kids to go on Saturday nights.

Obviously, our greatest resource is our citizens. We should continue to value the tremendous volunteer ethic of our town.

I am working to learn more about the management of the town. I have scheduled meetings with many town officials. I certainly think we should be fiscally sound and responsible. I would:
· work hard to avoid lawsuits and their costs. As a physician, I know that even frivolous lawsuits can be expensive and time-consuming.
While these are not always avoidable, I am confidant that our annexation efforts were legal and done right and that we will prevail in the lawsuit.

· work with the Town Manager to continue to be as efficient as possible, realizing that our town’s employees are an important resource who should be respected.
Again, our budget priorities have strengthened benefits and morale of our town employees.

· support efforts to improve trash collection and decrease injuries and work-comp costs without diminishing services to our elderly and less able citizens.
Our move to automate garbage service is saving almost $100,000 per year. We have retained backdoor service for elderly and disabled.

· look for ways to increase recycling in our town. This will reduce our utilization of the landfill and ultimately our town costs. We are blessed with an excellent recycling facility and I would like to see a public campaign to encourage more citizens to use it.
We continue to focus on this effort.

· be proactive in addressing town problems rather than being constantly in crisis management mode. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Our recent strategic planning session is an example of this effort.

In the overall area of Town/Citizen relations, I think that we need to investigate better ways to communicate with our fellow citizens. I would seek to create an atmosphere of neighborliness and strive for amicable resolution of disputes without resorting to micro-management with ordinances or litigation in the courts.

I pledge to be always polite and respectful to my fellow citizens, even when I disagree with them.

I do want to be clear that I oppose the current recall effort. While I sympathize with the frustration of the supporters, I mourn the atmosphere of distrust.

I think we can find better ways to handle these situations. Such ways might include:
· Better public notification of public meetings and important issues facing the town.
I think this has improved. I created a Communications sub-committee soon after election. They worked on many efforts to improve communications. I applaud Susan Robertson and her tireless efforts to keep up a weekly “Council Notes” article.

· More public hearings early in the process when important issues confront the town and more transparency in town affairs.
We have tried hard to open up our meetings to more public input and have lots of public meetings on important issues. We have moved “public comment” to the early part of the meeting to encourage more participation.

· Better use of internet. I would consider letting interested citizens sign up for email notification of Town Council and various board meetings with agendas attached.
This hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. We have tried to have sign up sheets for email notification, but it doesn’t seem to work well. We are currently working on a new website that hopefully will help in this direction.

It is important to remember that Town Council members are representatives of the citizens of Signal Mountain. They represent best when communications are two-way. If I am elected, I promise to listen to my constituents and will look forward to hearing from them. I will strive to make myself available to my neighbors and work hard to seek out their views on important issues confronting the town.

I certainly hope that I have been successful in this regard, but will allow the citizens to decide.


Paul M. Hendricks, MD
Signal Mountain Town Council

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Those of you who read the paper this morning know that a development group has approached the town about buying town property for commercial development. These developers apparently contacted the town and asked to meet with the Town Council. They were informed that they could not meet with us as a group unless it was a public meeting, but that they could meet with us individually. Individual meetings are legal and do not fall under the open meetings law since no "deliberation" can occur. This is an important point. Two years ago, former Planning Commission Chairman Dan Saieed was severely criticized about meeting with local landowners for information about their plans. This meeting too was legal and the criticism of Dan was totally inappropriate. Nonetheless, private meetings always raise concerns about what was discussed, so I thought I would try to clarify my position on this proposal.

When I met with these gentleman, they laid out the plan that has subsequently been made to the town and is therefore now public. I told them that I would keep an open mind, but that the town property did not belong to me, but to the citizens of Signal Mountain. I told them that any decisions I made would be with full public discussion and input. I told them I could only support this if I saw overwhelming public support from the citizens of Signal Mountain. They were very understanding of this position. I assume they wanted to gauge Council opinions or feelings on this proposal before deciding whether to move forward. They must have felt some encouragement as they have made a formal proposal.

I should say that I am fairly dubious about this proposal and its likelihood of being supported by the town. The original proposal made is not acceptable in its current form. The logistical issues of moving ballfields, tennis courts and, ultimately the Playhouse are rather formidable. I should state that, while I am willing to keep an open mind about the initial proposal in the area of the ballfields and soccer field (assuming I were to hear overwhelming public support), I would be adamantly opposed to selling off the tennis courts and the Playhouse area for commercial development.

The positive aspect of this has been to refocus myself on some thoughts I had soon after being elected. I think we have an excellent resource in the Town Hall complex. I would love to see a master plan to incorporate this area into a "Town Center" that wouldn't necessarily have to involve commercial development. If we sell the land, we lose control. However, we could do a better job of connecting the Town Hall with the Playhouse, Library and Recycle center through more paths, etc. I remember riding through this area with my son on our bikes a few years ago and there is some real potential there. I would love to see the Playhouse amphitheater used during the spring and late summer and fall for concerts and other types of events. It also seems like it would be a great place for weddings, Scout ceremonies, etc. I would rather take this approach to a "Town Center" than having two more big box stores and a parking lot.

I hope we can move forward in a positive manner with this discussion about the future of Signal Mountain. I am very anxious to hear the opinions of our town's residents on this (and all other) issues.