Sunday, October 31, 2010

DRC minutes from Guthrie's sign application

Claire Greisinger commented on my DRC blog and corrected an impression I received from a participant at this meeting about requiring a wooden sign. I accept her clarification and told her, to avoid further confusion I would post the entire minutes of that meeting (she is the secretary, so the minutes are written by her and, since I have received no corrections I assume they are approved by the DRC). Emphasis in bold italics are mine:

Design Review Commission Minutes

May 25, 2010

Present: Karen Rennich                                                                                    
Claire Greisinger                                

Jeremy Rardin
Ed Garbee
Rusty Sewell

Karna Levitt

Staff: Chuck Gearhiser

[Council Liason]: Susan Robertson
Absent: Jay Caughman

The committee approved the minutes of the last meeting.

Several businesses came before the DRC with requests.

Representing Guthries, a restaurant moving into the old CVS building on Taft Highway, were Mr.William Casteel, Mr. Will Garrett, and owner Mr. Grady Williamson.

The first item discussed was the red Guthries sign, shown imposed on the grey overhang on the front of the building in a picture given to the DRC

*Mr. Garrett stated the sign had already been purchased at a good price.

*Sign was 14’ by approx. 42” (the height of the letter G) without blue background paint.

*Overhang is 5’5” in height

*Sign would go on overhang above front entrance doors/windows with blue background.

*Blue background color would extend around top of building (side also)

*Mr. Garrett said he did not have a copy of the sign ordinance.

*Maximum total sign area was discussed by Karen. This sign is 49 sq. ft.

Karen stated the DRC policy is 25 sq. ft., but 50 sq. ft. max. is allowed as this has not been changed in the regs.

*Mr. Garrett asked if the sign could go on the side of the building (drive thru located on this side)

Karen asked if the board had suggestions about moving the sign to the side of the building.

Claire said this would involve 2 signs now – one on the side and one on the front of the restaurant. Claire said the sign was too big. Karen noted people do not support a big sign in the front area. Ed did not like a lit sign. Jeremy also thought the size was too large. No DRC members supported the sign as a light box.

Karna said the sign was OK on the side if it was not lighted.

The committee discussed the 3 additional windows on the front and side of the building. These will be smaller than the existing windows. A drawing was provided with dimensions. There was no objection to the additional windows.

The size of the large sign above the smaller windows was discussed. Claire thought it was too top heavy. Ed discussed the sign/windows and Karna added the sign was not too large to go over the windows on the side.

Karna made a motion to approve an externally lit Guthries sign centered over the side windows with no blue background and no further lettering on the side of the building. Ed seconded the motion. Voting yes: Karna, Ed, Rusty Voting no: Claire, Jeremy

A picture of the menu board was presented. The board asked where this sign would be placed. Mr. Garrett did not bring a sight plan. He noted the restaurant “had to have a drive thru.” The DRC talked about placing the board on the side of the building. Claire stated she did not like the food pictures on the sign (there are 8) and would prefer a smaller wooded board that would fit into the look of the mountain. Jeremy and Susan discussed reducing the size of the sign, removing Guthries from the top and removing some of the food pictures or reducing their size. Karen talked about removing the pedestal at the bottom of the sign and relocating the speaker (in the pedestal). Guthries stated they needed pictures. Ed supported pictures to help customers know what they were ordering. Karna stated we should concede the point about the pictures. Guthries said the sign was already under construction and Mr. Garrett stepped out to call the sign builder to ask the status of the frame. He returned and said the frame was built. Jeremy noted it would not be a problem to cut off the top part of the frame and reduce the size. The DRC agreed the pedestal should be removed and the sign be placed flush on the wall. Jeremy noted again the name Guthries and the 2 pictures on the top should be removed to reduce the size. The DRC discussed white trim around the windows and an awning without lettering and a straight edge. The representatives from Guthries discussed the awning and scalloped edges.

A motion was made by Ed to mount the sign depicted in the picture Mr. Garrett brought to the meeting on the side of the building. It will be to the right of the new set of windows. The sign will have the pedestal removed and the speaker located in an unobtrusive place on the side of the building. The colors will be as presented in the picture (green frame). An awning with straight edges will be over the drive-up window without lettering and white trim will be placed around the windows. The size will be 6’ by 5’ w/o the pedestal and internally lighted.

Karna seconded the motion. Voting yes were Ed, Karna, and Rusty. Voting no were Jeremy and Claire

The Committee discussed the signage, awnings, columns, and lighting on the front of the building. Discussion resulted in a decision to place a black awning(s) with red Guthries in the center above the front door/windows . An awning will also be above the new windows to the right of the entrance without lettering. The edges would be straight. Jeremy brought a picture from the Guthries website that showed the look the DRC thought was most appealing. The awning(s) were attached to the overhang and lighting shown down on the awnings. Guthries wanted the sign on the awning to measure 12’ in length. The columns were not in keeping with the style of the building and the decision was made to eliminate them. Jeremy brought up the screening of the satellite dishes and HVAC unit on the roof. Chuck said he did not know if the screening was up to Guthries or Frank Powell. He thinks it is Frank Powell’s responsibility and will check on this. The decision was made to let the staff approve a sidewalk cut for handicap access. Outdoor seating was mentioned in front of the restaurant.

Karna made a motion to approve 1 (one) black awning the length of the existing door and side windows and 1 (one) black awning over the new windows, as shown on the plan, with straight edges, down lighting above the awnings (as shown on the Guthries example supplied by Jeremy from their website), lighting spaced at even intervals, no blue paint, no columns, and if trim around windows, it will be white. Ed seconded the motion. Voting yes: Ed, Karna, Rusty, Claire Abstaining: Jeremy

Karen noted there was an appeal process if Guthries did not agree with the boards decisions.

As requested by the DRC, the minutes of the Guthries discussion were provided to Chuck and the rest of the DRC as quickly as possible.

Claire Griesinger

Monday, October 25, 2010

"Liberals", regulations and the DRC

Well, I promised I would do a blog on the DRC and here we are a week from the election, so I’d better get to it. Before I begin, I should comment briefly on my whole attitude towards regulation. In a recent letter to the, Joe Dumas attacked me as a liberal. Well, yes I am, Joe, always have been. However, if I depended on Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck (or Joe Dumas) for my definition of a liberal, I wouldn’t like me, either. However, the definition from Wikipedia is much closer to me: “Liberalism (from the Latin liberalis, "of freedom")[1] is the belief in the importance of individual liberty and equal rights.” Basically, I accept Thomas Jefferson’s famous dictum that the government which governs least, governs best. However, he clearly didn’t say the government which governs not at all. I also should comment on the difference between spending and investing. Any business person knows that you sometimes have to spend money to make money and we also know that spending money on stocks and bonds is different thatn spending it on beer and pretzels (the gratification is less immediate, I realize, but I think you get my point). I present myself humbly as an example. When I was 19 years old, my father died and left my family with minimal life insurance and no income. My mother had to return to work using her 20 y/o secretarial skills. My sisters and I went to school using student loans and social security survivor’s benefits. I also worked all through college and part of medical school. So, I was on of those chiselers living off the government that the tea party constantly attacks. I went to medical school on a National Health Service Scholarship and paid my “debt” by taking care of poor people in rural North Carolina. I then proceeded to pay off all my loans and now pay more every year in income taxes than I probably ever borrowed. My sisters have also both finished school, married, worked, raised fine, responsible kids and I’m sure return more than they have received. I would tell my conservative friends that government programs do work. I would tell my “liberal” friends that part of my “pay back” to society also includes raising a family, avoiding drugs and not going to jail.

Now, on to another aspect of being a “liberal”, I do support reasonable regulations. I think the government can be effective in protecting our health and safety and I also support regulations to protect the environment. However, I do not support regulations to impose my values or tastes or opinions on others.

It is ironic that Joe attacks me when I have been the most active council member at trying to diminish the regulations of this town. I was the first one to urge allowing citizens to raise their own chickens! I tried (but failed) to eliminate our prohibition on rock climbing. I killed the “speed camera” proposal which several other council members were enthusiastic about. I took a very minimalist (and inexpensive) approach to the traffic situation at CVS which I believe has worked quite well. On a more significant level, I have pushed hard for more flexible subdivision and zoning regulations (while still advocating control of density). I have also tried to make the DRC a more business-friendly organization. When I was elected, I was very interested in having the DRC re-write our design guidelines and our sign ordinance. I had heard from many businesses that these were a hindrance to local business. Bill Lusk was appointed liaison to the DRC to work with them to make these changes. When Lusk was elected mayor, I agreed to take his place as DRC liaison. When I went to my first meeting, they were happy to see me, weren’t really aware that they had a liaison and told me that Lusk had never attended a single meeting. So, we basically started from scratch in January, 2009. After working on this for several months, the volunteer members of the DRC felt overwhelmed by this responsibility of re-writing two major ordinance and asked for some help. This led to our hiring the KRCW group to advise on design guidelines. Their initial proposal cost $50,000, which I opposed, but it was decreased to $25,000

Right in the middle of this effort to bring in a consultant for help in re-writing these guidelines, the council threw DRC chair Greg Goodgame off the commission. The charge was that he hadn’t done enough (at the same time that the Planning Commission was in the middle of taking more than three years to rewrite subdivision regulations, a process that they still haven’t finished). However, clearly the fact the Greg Goodgame had run for council, but had not supported the recall and was not liked by the council and their friends was the real underlying reason. At this point, I resigned in protest as liason to the DRC and my position was taken by Susan Robertson. I don’t know the status of the rewrite at this time as we have received no reports on this.

Now that the history lesson is over, a few more comments on my “liberal” attitude towards these regulations. I realize that the citizens of Signal Mountain want an attractive appearance of their town commercial areas. Obviously, this has been inconsistently applied. I have a hard time enforcing my own (or anyone else’s) tastes onto others, especially businesses. I like green. Someone else might like purple. I like traditional architecture. Others like contemporary. Also, styles and tastes changes. What was attractive 30-40 years ago might seem a bit dated now and our design standards tend to inhibit attempts to update and make changes. Also, many of these requirements are expensive or impractical. The DRC asked Guthries to put up a wooden sign. The obvious question arises: what do they do when they change their menu or prices? This indicates a lack of understanding of what it takes to start and run a business. I realize that some reasonable restrictions are bound to be broadly acceptable, eg avoiding excess neon signs, too large of signs, etc. However, some have talked about wanting us to look like Hilton Head or Aspen. Folks, the average price of a house in Aspen is over $1,000,000. Both of these places are destination resorts where most of the people spending money there don’t live there. That is not our town. Our businesses depend on the local residents for business. I strongly believe we need to reach out to our business community for their input and what I’ve heard has been a lot of frustration.

So, I urge the DRC to bring in the local businesses, listen to them and realize that, if they want wooden signs or green shutters, they need to go out, buy a business and install them. But, if they want our town businesses to be successful, perhaps they need to ask the businesses what they can do to help them rather than getting in their way.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Signal Mountain is a great place to live!

I have some observations about exciting things going on here in (and on) Signal Mountain. Before I go there, I found an interesting and useful presentation that I want to share. As faithful readers of my blog (and others following town goings on) are aware, land use planning has been an important issue on Signal Mountain for the last few years. During the development of the Land Use Plan, national known conservation development consultant Randall Arendt advised the town. For reasons still unclear to me, the majority of the council has since rejected Mr. Arendt as a consultant. The Council and Planning Commission then sought a new consultant and brought in Mr. Larry Collins, who presented views very similar to Mr. Arendt's. I recently was reviewing some things on the town's website and was reminded what a clear presentation of the principles of conservation planning Mr. Collin's "power point" was and thought I would share it. Here's the link: . Again, the Council and the Planning Commission chairperson rejected Mr. Collins input and has not sought any more advice from him. I talked with Mr. Collins after his visit and he told me that he didn't have the impression that there was much interest in what he had to say. It's a shame, because it is not only quite good, it is precisely what the Land Use Plan calls for. I urge all my readers (and especially potential future town councilmembers) to spend a few minutes going through his presentation.

Now, on to more fun matters. For the last several months, the Mountain Arts Community Center Foundation has been sponsoring a series of "Music on the Mountain" events, mostly organized by yours truly. Among these events have been live music performances at Lynn's Market on Friday nights. I should tell you that tonight, Friday Oct 22 Eddie Gwaltney and Kathy Tugman presented a superb performance of very eclectic music and if you weren't there, you missed a great night. The thing that really made me realize how exciting things were getting on Signal, though was last Friday, Oct 15. My band, The Orchard Band, was scheduled to play at Lynn's. Unfortunately for us (but great for the town), the competition was fierce! There was a home football game as SMMHS, the theatre department at SMMHS was presenting "Crimes of the Heart" and the MACC was having a movie night and showing the classic "The Mummy" with Boris Karloff. Anyone who thinks it is boring here and that there is nothing to do is obviously not paying attention and I didn't even mention the Mountain Opry which is also every Friday night. Certainly the addition of the high school on Signal Mountain has added a great focal point for community activity and involvement. The MACC and the MACC Foundation are working hard to offer more and more various cultural experiences on the mountain. For a small town, Signal Mountain has a tremendous amount to offer, so I urge everyone to check the Community News on Wednesday and plan to try and get out and experience some of this every weekend.

Next weekend on Oct 29, Lynn's Market will feature Woodnote at 7pm, consisting of Signal Mountain residents Joe Anzalone and Alex Hawkins and, about 8:30 Bryce Cronan, a very talented young man will finish out the night. On Saturday, Oct 30 the MACC Foundation will sponsor "Music under the Starz" as part of its "Music on the Mountain" series at Signal Plaza in the courtyard outside The Pizza Place. Featured will be Signal Mountain resident and MACC Board member Nathan Bell, followed by David Crawford and Tom Brown, two Dalton musicians who have found some "youtube" fame with their humerous take on southern life and bluegrass. Y'all come on out next Friday and Saturday and enjoy some great local music!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Town Council Candidate Forum report

OK. Sit back, prop up your feet, get a beer or a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and get comfortable! Last night, Sunday, October 10, 2010 a Town Council candidate forum was held at the Signal Mountain Golf and Country Club. It was sponsored jointly by the Country Club and the Mountain Business Association (MBA). There were over 100 people in attendance. The six candidates for town council were all present and answered questions in order determined by lot. They each started with a 2 minute introduction, then proceeded to answer questions previously submitted by the public. The event was moderated by Jeff Wishmyer. I took notes during the event. This is obviously not a verbatim recounting of the discussion, but I hope I have captured the gist of the answers. I also didn’t copy the questions exactly, but have done my best to reproduce them, sometimes without the preambles. Any errors are obviously mine, but if any candidates see themselves as misrepresented, please either comment or contact me privately and I will print your response or retraction. Also, if any candidates care to expand their answers I encourage each of them to respond. That is why I provide this vehicle for community discussion. I have tried to make a few clearly noted “editorial notes” to clarify or occasional “fact-check” some answers. I hope this is helpful. At the end of the forum, a “straw vote” was held. I will reveal the results at the end of this blog entry.

1. Will you work with the WWTA to get the sewer moratorium raised as soon as possible?

Wallace: yes, town can’t move forward until moratorium is lifted

Robertson: We have been working with the WWTA, she stated we have averaged “fourteen building permits during the moratorium”. (Ed note: I don’t know the source of this data or if she meant 14 total over the almost 3 ½ years that we have been under the moratorium, or 14 per year average. I briefly reviewed some monthly reports which reveal that we may have totaled around 14 new residential permits in the last 3 years. However, total permits can be deceptive since many “building permits” are for renovations and remodeling. In two random months in 2008, there were 26 and 38 permits issued with only 3 “new construction” in each month. Also, some “new” permits are renewals of permits which expire in 6 months if construction has not begun.)

Rardin: “I support lifting the moratorium to progress”, but mentioned that he needed to “investigate it further”.

Preston: mentioned that the town was ready to move forward. He stated that the moratorium was there for the right reason (to protect water quality), but it needed to be lifted ASAP once the problem was resolved

Bowling: stated “absolutely” the moratorium is a priority and that the town needed to work with the WWTA. He also stated he needed data to make decisions and that we need the data necessary to decide what is needed to wrap up the moratorium

Gee: stated that water quality is important. He stated we need to do the right thing and supported a tenacious effort to clean the water, then lift the moratorium.

2. With expenses growing and revenues being flat, where do we get the revenue to meet expenses?

Robertson: stated we’re “looking pretty good”. Stated we came in below budget (ed note: This is true. the town manager used very conservative revenue projections which came in $157,000 over budget. Also, there were budget savings and projected expenses came in 2% under projections. However, the MACC roof repair overlapped the budget year, so some of that expense carried over into this current FY). She stated the annexation will pay for a new fire station (ed note: I would dispute this. A new fire station is projected for the future but details are still not known. The plan of services for annexation require a study to determine need for future fire protection, but construction and equipping and providing personnel for a new fire station is not in the budget for the annexation. The reason for this is that a new fire station is expected to eventually be needed if and when more development occurs in the Shackleford Ridge area, so since this need isn’t dependent on annexation, its not included in those expenses.) She stated that we have been “fortunate with grants” and that we are discussing a new public works building. She stated “there are ways to get things done without raising taxes”, but wasn’t more specific.

Rardin: stated that before taxes are raised, government needs to first find ways to cut expenses. He suggested that, before taxes are raised there should be a public forum to get ideas.

Preston: stated that the current council and town manager have done a great job. Suggested looking at outsourcing and grants.

Bowling: stated that costs will continue to increase and that the annexation budget projects losses in the short term (ed note: this is essentially true since expenses start right away and taxes from the areas aren’t collected until the next FY. However, the accounting methods used may amplify this problem. Part of it depends on timing of services). He stated that the current council’s zero growth policy inhibits revenue. He stated that we can maintain our small town character while growing in diverse ways.

Gee: stated that taxes are a quality of life issue which should be decided by citizens, ie we have to pay for the services and amenities that we want. He stated that costs will rise and he expects that taxes will go up at some point.

Wallace: stated we have to increase revenue or cut costs. He advocated expense control and that we should make it easier to do business up here and to support the businesses that we have. He stated we should be careful of grants because some of them incur continuing operating expenses after the grant is spent.

3. Some officials consider grants to be “free money”. What do you think of grants and the possibility of ongoing costs from grants?

Rardin: if you don’t get it someone else will. We should get all we can. He stated that it is very difficult to project future maintenance costs 20 years out. We need a “savings acct” and need money to maintain it (ed note: my notes are unclear, I think this meant to maintain the things paid for by the grants).

Preston: depends on the grant. Mentioned that many grants require matching funds from town.

Gee: reminded everyone that grants ultimately come from taxes; he separated operational type grants from capital project grants. He supports capital project grants, but opposed operational grants.

Bowling: also reminded us that grants are not “free money” and they often come with an obligation including the costs to apply for the grants in staff time, etc. He thinks they are appropriate when grants are consistent with the town’s strategy. He disagreed with Rardin about projecting costs and stated that this is the kind of work he does in his job and that the town needs to plan for maintenance and ongoing costs from grants.

Wallace: had elaborated on grants in previous answer. Stated we need to think through grants and use them for appropriate needs.

Robertson: stated that grants are a “terrific way to get returns from tax dollars”, reminded that the pool and town hall were built with grants, mentioned the grant we just received for pool maintenance (Ed note: this was a 50/50 grant requiring the town to match the $82,500 provided by the grant for swimming pool maintenance projects) and the grant for heating projects for the MACC ($100,000 grant for heating efficiency projects with no match required). She stated “grant money is good”.

4. Local businesses are frustrated with the town council and the Design Review Committee and a perception that they aren’t easy to work with. What should the town council do to improve the business climate?

Preston: said “Yes”, implying that the council could do more to improve the business climate. He stated he had talked with many businesses and the theme was concern about support from the town, frustration with starting new businesses. Stated town needs to sit down with new business owners and help them through the process.

Bowling: Town needs to work as a community. Needs to remove the risk from town ordinances, needs to clarify and make them easier to understand, improve the ordinances and regulations and remove the personal bias and objectivity from town business application process.

Gee: believes in partnerships and need to work together. Wants to reach out to business for the great good.

Wallace: talked with local business folk. Says town emphasizes “what you can’t do” rather than “how can we help you?”. Need to reach out and help business. He mentioned the recent application for the Guthrie’s restaurant as an “eye opener” in talking with small business.

Robertson: stated we need to remember our committee are volunteers and only meet once a month. Stated that the town council has asked for a rewrite of our design ordinances and sign ordinance. Mentioned hiring the KCRW firm for advice on design guidelines (ed note: I intend to expand on this situation in a future blog).

Rardin: mentioned working “extremely hard” to rewrite ordinances. States he started a new business packet with illustrations and a time line. Stated they were making good use of the KCRW report.

5. Have you read the Land Use Plan (LUP), KCRW report (ed note: recently done report on design guidelines which included a plan for a central business district/town center), and town consultant Randall Arendt’s reports?

Bowling: has glanced at, but not completely read the LUP. Agreed that town council members need to read all these documents. He supports managed growth and preserving our small town character. States we can still promote growth and hold it all together.

Gee: has read report. States “I do support development, but have to do planning and discuss it first”, states we have to look at transportation and traffic, security, schools, etc. Need to develop in orderly fashion.

Wallace: “Yes, I do support residential and commercial development”. He read the town’s vision statement (which supports managed growth) and stated his support for this statement. He stated that once the sewer moratorium is lifted, the “fun starts” and we need to preserve our small town character.

Robertson: “I not only read the plan, I helped write the plan”. Stated it was based on input from Randall Arendt and another planner whose name I didn’t catch (ed note: I don’t recall any other consultant advising on the LUP. The Planning Commission has recently invited at least one other planner to advise them after essentially dismissing Randall Arendt, however his recommendations were very similar and, so far as I know there has been no more contact with him, either). She stated it promoted green neighborhoods. On commercial development, she said that “good business will always do well” and mentioned the Signal Mountain Athletic Club. She stated that we need infrastructure and stated “the community needs to decide how much it wants to grow”.

Rardin: stated he has read the LUP and KCRW report. Stated that Randall Arendt in his advice to the town “did not take into account if the land is flat or mountainous” (ed note: It wasn’t clear just what he meant by this as he didn’t elaborate. In Arendt’s advice, there is reference to steep slopes and how to define them and avoid building on them. There are also references to ravines and river (riparian) zones). Stated that growth has to “consider the (SMMHS) school” and not do a disservice to the kids.

Preston: stated that he has reviewed the plans. Stated that we live in a unique residential community. We need to maintain our character. He stated that after the sewer moratorium we will have residential development.

6. SMGCC’s lease is based on the tax value of the land. Mayor Bill Lusk has several times suggested finding a way to increase the amount that SMGCC pays on this land. Also, the current lease expires soon (there were some differences about exactly when and I haven’t had time to double check on that). Do you support or oppose the Mayor’s desire to increase the lease on the SMGCC and would you support a longer lease term to allow the SMGCC to do better long range planning?

Gee: Stated he doesn’t know all the terms of the lease, but had no reason to believe a change needed to be made. Would like to study it more.

Wallace: stated the lease amount was “$57,244” per year and the yearly amount paid for water was roughly similar. Stated that he supported a longer lease to allow more investment which allows the club to be a better amenity for the town.

Robertson: stated the lease expires in 2016. Stated the country club is an asset to the town and “I support it wholeheartedly”. Stated she didn’t know what needs would be or what would happen in 2016.

Rardin: Would like to see the numbers. “I don’t have an answer”. Stated that the Club is an asset and that he would like to get the town and club together to discuss it.

Preston: “can’t answer well”, stated we need to work together to make the community better and that the Club is a “wonderful asset to the community”.

Bowling: stated Club is town’s 2nd largest employer and an good steward of the land it leases. He is in favor of a longer-term lease.

7. Current projections are that the town has lost citizens over the last 10 years. What do you think of this and what can be done to spur growth?

(ed note: these projections are from the US Census Bureau based on annual estimates since the last official census in 2000 -  the spreadsheet did not transfer well, but the figures essentially are annual estimates from July, 2000 on the far right to July 2009 on the left):

July 2009 July 2008 July 2007 July 2006 July 2005 July 2004 July 2003 July 2002 July 2001

July 2000

TN 6,296,254 /6,240,456 /6,172,862 /6,089,453 /5,995,748 /5,916,762 /5,856,522 /5,803,306 /5,755,443 /5,703,243

Signal Mtn 7,253 /7,179 /7,180 /7,255/ 7,264 /7,282 /7,338 /7,390 /7,408 /7,440
(so Signal Mountain has basically lost 187 citizens since 2000, but this may have reversed in the last year)

Walden 2,125 /2,093 /2,074 /2,061 /2,028 /2,003 /1,989 /1,979 /1,973 /1,962
(during the same time, Walden has gained 163 citizens)
Red Bank 11,765 /11,646 /11,650 /11,791 /11,833 /11,902 /12,024 /12,147 /12,265 /12,339

East Ridge 19,985 /19,797 /19,839 /20,061 /20,031 /20,102/ 20,008 /20,221 /20,418 /20,533

Collegedale 8,195/ 8,039 /7,564 /7,482/ 7,371 /7,285 /7,223/ 7,275 /7,088 /6,707

Chat. 171,350 /170,819 /169,847 /168,293 /165,927 /164,077 /162,367 /160,786 /158,701 /156,770

Soddy-Daisy 12,859 /12,675 /12,439 /12,278 /12,170 /12,062 /12,033 /11,914 /11,810 /11,542

Wallace: Stated he has seen several different projections and that the numbers were “squirrely”. Stated that we need more diversity in residential development and need to provide for citizens who want housing options similar to Westfield.

Robertson: asked “is growth good? How much can we sustain?” Stated it is up to the citizens to decide. Stated she didn’t believe numbers because “I don’t see a lot of empty houses. I think we have a growing community”. She stated we need another Westfield, “maybe two or three” (ed note: I can’t help but express my curiosity about where she would propose building these high-density developments). Stated “I want some growth, but not by numbers, by quality (ed note: she didn't explain what she meant by "quality")”. States this will be answered by the community.

Rardin: wanted to know source of data. Stated he didn’t have an answer. Wondered why people are moving off the mountain.

Preston: stated it is normal to have some movement. Stated that the population was probably essentially stable due to the sewer moratorium.

Bowling: stated he had found the same data in several places. Stated that he believed the cost of doing business will go up and that we need to complete the subdivision regulation revision and work with the WWTA and develop a growth plan.

Gee: can’t explain numbers. Stated that his church, Signal Crest UMC is adding capacity due to demographic projections and that other churches are expanding, so he expected growth.

8. In the current economy, tax values are declining. The Town of Walden doesn’t have a Public Works Dept, but outsources its pavement works, etc. How do you believe town can provide services without raising taxes?

Robertson: stated we contributed to the fund balance in the past Fiscal Year. Stated we could have a tax increase when the high school (bond) is paid off (ed note: last I checked, that was about 17 years off. She misquoted the exact amount of the current tax rate and I didn’t write that down, but the current rate is $1.5134 per hundred dollars of assessed value and includes the “school tax”, or amount dedicated to the bond debt which is 19% or about $0.29).

Rardin: First place to cut is government, need to cut costs. He doesn’t want to raise taxes and recommend we apply for grants.

Preston: understood that the question was about contracting services. He stated that the town already outsources paving and some tree work. Stated that the public works dept is efficient.

Bowling: stated the answer was good management and fiscal responsibility. Stated we have to constantly evaluate options.

Gee: states services would change with financial situation. He recommended we look at the finances and revenue and pick and choose which is best way to go.

Wallace: stated outsourcing is an alternative to explore and that we need to cut costs. Stated that when the school bond is paid off, the tax should go away “when its over, its over” and not be used to raise taxes.


At the end of the forum, there was a straw poll. There were actually two because the SMGCC did a separate poll including only their own members. I don’t have those results. However, the other straw poll was open to all participants.

The results were:

1. Wallace

2. Bowling

3. Preston

4. Gee

5. Robertson

6. Rardin

I hope this is helpful. I hope that everyone in the town will get out and vote, either during early voting (Oct 13-Oct 28) or on Nov. 2. You can also register your opinion on my very unscientific poll on the right of this blog. Again, if any candidates or other participants see anything I have gotten wrong, please contact me or use the blog to respond.

Monday, October 04, 2010

today's Town Council agenda meeting

After this weekend it wouldn't be surprising if my readers think the Signal Mountain Town Council is totally dysfunctional. However, while our passions may occasionally get the better of our discretion (at least speaking for myself), today's very productive meeting should reassure everyone that the business of the town is very much on track.

During our meeting today, we accomplished several tasks and discussed several more. We reviewed our relationship with Town Manager Honna Rogers, whom we had recently evaluated individually. I haven't yet seen all the evaluations, but it was clear from the discussion, and certainly is my opinion, that she gets high marks. Ms. Rogers is very happy with her employment with the town, but we are quite aware of her skills and that other towns could clearly use her expertise (don't even think about it, East Ridge). After extensive discussion, which involved quite a bit of compromising and negotiating, we approved a 2% raise for her, within the range of the 1-2% raises given to the rest of the town's employees based on merit. We also approved some extra time off for her as compensation for the extensive amount of 24/7 availability she has provided for us, a fact to which I can personally attest. We then set some goals for her next 6 months, several of which involve doing research on issues which the next council can address as to whether to move forward or not. These include such areas as automated water meters, completing the current water and sewer studies, developing a 5-year capital plan for vehicles and other capital purchases, working on increasing our recycling efforts, doing occupational safety training for employees and developing options for locating a badly needed new Public Works Building.

Other issues being addressed include accepting the staff's recommendation not to put a new stop sign in Hidden Brook, but encouraging the staff to work with residents on other ways to improve safety at the intersection of concern at Windy Way and Hathaway. We discussed the recently awarded pool maintenance grant and the grant for a heating project at the MACC, discussed and agreed to oppose the recently proposed water rate increase by Tennessee-American, reviewed our attorney's contractual agreement to be sure it was consistent with his position with the City of Chattanooga and approved a much appreciated offer by Mr. Tom Poteet to offer space for a police training center. We met with a resident of Palisades Rd. about fire hydrants which the City of Chattanooga is going to place there (we provide the water, but it is in Chattanooga city limits and they will pay for the hydrants) and discussed how to proceed with placing some of our natural areas into a conservation easement. Finally, we reviewed and approved the agenda for next week's regular Monday night Town council meeting.

Whew! Pretty good, huh!? So, please don't dispair. While politics are alive and well in Signal Mountain, so is competent governance.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

One last time...

Over the last 4 years I have tried to use this blog to inform my constituents about the inside workings of the Signal Mountain Town Council. That I have disagreed with the majority on the Council on certain issues is well know. This is part of the political process. I have tried hard to make my positions clear and public. If my style has occasionally reflected my frustration, well I freely confess to being human. I have never tried to make personal attacks and if my admitted intensity has at times made it seem that way, again I regret it but don't think I am in any way unique in the political process. I have not made personal or "ad hominem" attacks, I have disagreed with policy positions and decisions and occasionally disagreed with philosophical or stylistic approaches. If that has been misinterpreted it has not been my intent. If my approach has not always been perfect, I'll have to accept that criticism. If some people are upset that I disagree with them, they'll have to get over it. I have been very successful at getting along with people I disagree with. After all, some of my best friends are Republicans. So, I really don't think that is the issue.

As I finish my term, I have tried to highlight some issues that I feel strongly about. I thought this would be helpful as part of the process. What started as a communication to the citizens of Signal Mountain about issues that I care about has now been ramped up into a major personal dispute by the I supposed I should expect that since, as the old saying goes "that's what sells newspapers"... or web ads, as the case may be. Here is the article:

So, let me try to address the attacks on me by Mayor Bill Lusk in a way that hopefully will explain my positions and hopefully not further inflame this already ridiculous exchange. I have already addressed the "sour grapes" issue in my previous blog. He knows that I had already planned to step down from the council. I have never denied being disappointed about being voted out as mayor, but that is part of the political process. I am not the first politician to lose a race. It should be clear that the policy differences between myself and the majority on the council led to that event and that it was a symptom of that disagreement rather than the cause. I would have appreciated a more candid and forthright process, but that is old news.

The accused me of "surreptitiously" trying to raise taxes. Mr. Lusk's own words contradict this when he says "“(O)n a number of occasions that are well supported by the public record...". It is kind of hard to be surreptitious on the public record. I freely admit that I was concerned our town manager might propose a tax increase. We collect quite a bit more in taxes from the "school tax" than we need to pay our yearly installment and I suggested that, if a tax increase were needed we could offset it with the school tax. I made this case to the council in a public meeting. It was a contingency we have not needed, but when we do need to raise taxes I would still propose we offset it by lowering the school tax if possible. I proposed this only as a way to soften the blow on taxpayers if a tax increase were needed. In the recent Town Council Forum, Mrs. Robertson stated that once the school bond is payed off  "we could have a moderate tax increase and still be less than 19 percent" referring to the school tax. This is the same proposal as mine with the possible exception of timing. I doubt we will be able to get away with another 17 years (when the bond is paid off) or so without a tax increase. If that is not clear, I'm happy to elaborate, but it is certainly nothing I have tried to hide.

As to the zoning issues, I have elaborated ad nauseum on this. I disagree with the Council's approach. I do hope that eventually there will be a positive outcome. However, I am not encouraged by the actions of the council. We'll just have to disagree on this issue. I hope I'm wrong, frankly. However, I am also concerned about timing. We have already had significant turnover on the Planning Commission since our intial public hearings and Randall Arendt's presentation on his principles. I have concerns about comments from some members about the commitment to Mr. Arendt's (and our Land Use Plan's) proposals. Part of the intent of my blog was to encourage the candidates running to support this proposal. If the Council and the Planning Commission plans to remain true to that vision, that will be a good thing and Mr. Lusk should support my efforts. I confess to being dubious, but will try to give them the benefit of the doubt. As to attending Planning Commission meetings, well I'm not a member of that committee! When I was on the Planning Commission, I was very diligent. I don't know how many meetings Mr. Lusk attended before he was Mayor, or how many other committees he attends of which he is not a member or liaison. However, it has been made pretty clear to me that my input is not welcome, so I have worked to put my energies into areas where I might be more productive. I have tried to follow the discussion from a distance, but the minutes and output of the commission have been very difficult to figure out. As to "making few attempts to work with his fellow council members", I do take umbrage at this and think that anyone who knows me knows that this is not true. Clearly we have agreed far more than we have disagreed and I have frequently deferred to the other members on issues of particular concern to them.

Finally, he has tried to spin my support for education funding into something somehow sinister. I was very clear from the time I ran for council that I supported Signal Mountain Middle/High School where my daughter is now a 6th grader. When I became aware that this money was committed to the school, I fought hard to put it where I thought it would do the most good. I was strongly supported by a large segment of the community. Even Ms. Allen supported spending a part of the money for the school, which I appreciated. As we were considering this, I became aware of the dire problems with heating at the MACC. I considered and proposed possibly using some of this money for this purpose. I never received any dissent from the council on this proposal, however when this idea was opposed by some in the community, I immediately backed off and decided we would need to seek a different avenue of funding for the MACC heating. I don't consider this new heating system to be "spiff" and am thrilled that we have recently received a grant to accomplish this goal. I was very out front on this issue and still regret we did not use that money to improve SMMHS. I do confess to a mistake, though in that I have made assumptions I should not have made. When I got to know Bill Lusk, part of my interest in him and reasons for supporting him for State Legislature and ultimately voting to put him on the council was that he was, like me, a liberal Democrat. He was also a member of the Founder's Fund which was raising funds for the school. Because of this I assumed he would, like I, support this funding for the public school. Unfortunately, I was wrong. He resigned his position with the Founder's Fund soon after being appointed to the council and ultimately decided to oppose the funding. While we disagreed on this, that was his decision. However, I do not regret my own decision on this and will continue to do all I can to support public schools in general and SMMHS in particular.

Finally, I must take extreme exception to Mr. Lusk's comment "When it comes to honesty and integrity, these writings are seriously lacking". This is the definition of an "ad hominem" attack. While he attacks me on the issues I addressed above, he provides not one example where I am not honest. I deeply resent this. While personal honor seems to be an old-fashioned virtue in this modern age, it is one that is critically important to me, as a professional, as a husband and parent and as a public official. I do not lie. If I am wrong, point it out and I'll retract it. But do not accuse me of dishonesty without any substantiation.

I regret that this attempt to discuss the issues got so ugly. For whatever degree any clumsiness on my party has lowered the tenor of this discussion, I am sorry. I had thought I could publicly air differences and discuss issues without such nastiness occurring, but in this day of Tea Parties and Glenn Beck, I guess I was naive.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

wow, someone noticed!

My latest issues blog was prominently featured in a recent article on . Judy Frank, the author of this piece then followed up by contacting the members of the council to comment:

From: Judy Frank

To: Susan Robertson
Cc: Bill Lusk ; Missy Cantrell ; ; Paul M. Hendricks
Sent: Friday, October 01, 2010 9:49 AM
Subject: question from Judy Frank

As you may know, an article about former mayor Paul Hendricks' criticism of other council members and town officials was featured on today's Susan Robertson, a candidate for reelection, was singled out repeatedly and in particular.
I am hoping to write a followup article giving Vice Mayor Robertson and other individuals mentioned by name in Councilman Hendricks' blog a chance to respond to any and all of the charges he leveled.
I will not be home today but will be checking my email regularly. Please let me know if you have a response you would like to make.
Thanks! Judy Frank

Bill Lusk replied with obvious enthusiasm:
From: Bill

To: 'Judy Frank' ; 'Susan Robertson'
Cc: 'Missy Cantrell' ; ; 'Paul M. Hendricks'
Sent: Friday, October 01, 2010 4:09 PM
Subject: RE: question from Judy Frank

I can’t wait.

Best regards,
Bill Lusk

So, I thought I would share my own response with my readers. I honestly don't know if will print my response, so here it is:

I should thank the for highlighting my blog ( in its recent article. Since you essentially printed it twice, I should ask what you pay per word and if I get any part of that! Considering reporter Judy Frank’s friendship with Vice-Mayor Susan Robertson it is not surprising that she immediately emailed the rest of the council to encourage them to respond. However, before that happens there are several errors that need correcting. If Ms. Frank had contacted me or indeed any of the council before publishing she might not have made these mistakes. Ms. Frank seems very intent on implying that my decision to not run for re-election was because I was not re-elected mayor. This is not true. The fact that she refers to me as “former mayor” rather than as a current councilmember emphasizes her attempt to “spin” my personal decisions. The facts are that I had decided not to run for re-election before the last mayoral election and told this to the council. My decision was based on several reasons, most importantly the fact that my family had asked that I not run again. I have loved being on the Signal Mountain Town Council and I truly loved being mayor, but it was very time consuming and I decided two more years would have to be enough time to spend on what is after all a non-paid, voluntary public service position. I am a husband, father of a son going to college and a daughter entering middle-school and a full-time physician with a busy and erratic schedule. I also had to give up performing music, a vocation I truly enjoy and missed terribly. For these reasons I had already decided that I would not run for re-election and, when I announced to the Council my interest in remaining mayor I also indicated that I did not plan to run again. I was originally elected before Bill Lusk and Susan Robertson were appointed to the council, so I went to the council and told them I would be interested in remaining mayor for the rest of my term. I received no negative responses and, as a matter of fact both Mrs. Robertson and Mr. Lusk told me they saw no reason to make a change. Mr. Lusk had frequently complimented my performance as mayor and told me he didn’t know how I did it and that he didn’t think he could. Therefore I was surprised and disappointed when he announced after his own election that he was going to run for mayor and the rest of the council lined up behind him. I told him that, a main reason I wanted to remain mayor was due to my passion to revise our town’s zoning regulations and promote conservation development. I have known about and been an advocate of conservation development for over 20 years and was excited that I was finally in a position to do something about it. I told him that, since as mayor I sat on the Planning Commission, I wanted to finish the job. Mr. Lusk told me that he didn’t realize he would have to serve on the Planning Commission as mayor. He stated that he was too busy and didn’t have time to be on the Planning Commission and that if he were elected I could remain on the Planning Commission. While I have often wondered if I should have taken him up on his offer, I didn’t think that was an appropriate deal to accept.

One other issue I should correct is Ms. Frank’s continual referral to Signal Mountain’s development consultant Randall Arendt as “my” consultant. This is clearly absurd. There was a strong desire from the town to bring in a professional planning consultant. Both Annette Allen and I had independently sought advice from Karen Rennich, a planner with the Regional Planning Agency and Mr. Arendt’s name was clearly at the top of the list she recommended. We never discussed bringing in anyone else, the entire council enthusiastically supported him and our entire Land Use Plan is based on his advice and counsel. While I am still a huge fan of Mr. Arendt and deeply regret that his advice has now been rejected, to call him “my” consultant is to change history and is wrong. He was the town’s consultant. Finally, Ms Frank states that I “talked to potential voters about the need to counsel members who will do what he, and his consultant, wants” (emphasis mine). Actually, if Ms. Frank had checked out the link in my blog, she would know that I asked town council candidates to read the town’s Land Use Plan which was adopted by the town after extensive public input and was, at least initially, enthusiastically supported by this council. So, yes, being the radical subversive that I am I think it might be a good idea for town council candidates to read our Land Use Plan and, since I support that plan, yes, that is what I want.

During my time on this council, Ms. Frank has very rarely contacted me on issues she has reported on and usually I have had to contact her. If the is interested in being an accurate source of news, I think it would behoove its correspondents to actually contact and interview the subjects of its news stories. Thank you for the service you provide.


Paul M. Hendricks, MD

Current member of Signal Mountain Town Council

Friday, October 01, 2010

Hodge Podge 2010

I know this is last minute, but come on down to Hodge Podge at the Signal Mountain Town Hall this Friday and Saturday, Oct 1-2. We have the traditional artists and craftspeople showing and selling their wares. In addition, this year for the first time we will have live music, a "KidPodge" children's area on Saturday and a Health and Wellness section sponsored by Alexian Village.
I was asked to organize the music and we have an almost all Signal Mountain line up.

Friday will feature :
11am-12noon - a vocal group from Alexian
12-1 - John Harper
1-2:30 - Jim Palmour
2:30- 4 - Gypsy Truckers with Mario Piccolo
4-5:30 - Dee Bass
5:30 -7 - The Orchard Band featuring yours truly with Robert and Alice Thatcher

10-12 - Mountain Cove Bluegrass
12-1 - OCD featuring the Sawyer Brothers and friends
1-2 - Woodnote with Joe Anzalone and Alex Hawkins
2-3 - Bryce Cronan
4-5 - Brian and Garrett Massman

KidPodge will have cookie decorating, face-painting, a bouncy castle and a talent show, among other activities.

Some y'all come and enjoy a great fall weekend on Signal Mountain. We made sure we called ahead so the weather promises to be great!