Renewing Our Vision Workshops – the results are in!

The results are in! We would like to thank everyone who participated in the ‘Renewing Our Vision’ workshops either in person in August or through our virtual workshop online, which closed on October 17th. Below is a map of the workshop locations:

Workshop Locations Map

The workshop included three activities. Each revolved around a central question:

  1. How do we achieve our goals?;
  2. What to do with the lands “in between?”; and
  3. Where should this go?



Altogether, 84 people participated in the workshops. Not every individual answered every question in every activity, but 84 people provided input. To ensure that we were engaging a diverse range of people, we asked participants to provide their age, income, and zip code. We only have demographic data in all three of these categories for 56% of the participants (47 of 84). The graphs below represent the age and income of respondents. The map below represents the respondents’ zip codes.

Workshop participants by age compared to Hamilton County

 Age Graph - blog

Workshop participants by income compared to Hamilton County

Income Graph - blog

Workshop participants by zip code


For the results of our ‘What do you want to grow?’ game, in the previous round of public input, we analyzed responses to see how they differed based on demographics. We did not do such an analysis for this round of public input because we were not able to tie the demographic information to all of the participants’ responses for the planning workshops. Also, because we had less participation in the second round of input than in the first, an analysis broken down by demographics is unlikely to be as accurate. While the workshops were still informative, we learned that engaging the public at existing community events and activity centers is more effective than hosting workshops to get feedback.


Activity 1: How do we achieve our goals?

For this activity, we asked participants for feedback on the plan goals for ‘Renewing Our Vision’.  Participants shared specific solutions for making our community more complete, connected, healthy and safe, and unique and attractive. They also voted for their favorite solutions.  The following are common themes that arose and solutions that received the most votes:

Complete Communities

  • Neighborhoods which cover all of the basic needs and encourage a variety of services/businesses
  • Mixed housing and retail in a walkable, bikeable environment
  • Affordable housing options/policies that promote affordable housing
  • Diverse housing mix, including accessory dwelling units
  • Reusing old buildings for mixed-use
  • Infill development/nodes rather than sprawl
  • Multimodal transportation infrastructure
  • Good schools

Connected Communities

  • Multimodal transportation infrastructure including complete streets, sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, bike share stations, greenways and trails, designated bus lanes, and park and rides
  • Transportation options, especially walking, biking, and a variety of transit including bus, shuttle, rapid transit, and rail
  • Sewer
  • Expanding airport service including the size of the airport and cities served
  • Destinations served by multimodal transportation including school, work, neighborhoods, retail, grocery stores, social activities, parks, recreation areas, and community centers

Healthy & Safe Communities

  • Multimodal transportation infrastructure, safe and complete streets, cyclist and driver education, and schools connected to the community for safe walking and cycling
  • Street lighting
  • Transit-oriented development
  • Better zoning for section 8 housing
  • Access to good food including grocery stores, markets, and community gardens
  • More parks and recreation areas
  • Neighborhood watch programs
  • More community programs/activities
  • Stormwater control

Unique & Attractive Communities

  • Form-based code
  • Landscaping/streetscaping, especially with native plants
  • Celebrate communities’ uniqueness/heritage through public art, signage, and community centers
  • Revitalize/reuse abandoned/historic buildings
  • Repair and clean up in neighborhoods
  • Preserve natural features
  • More, connected parks, open space, and greenways
  • Diverse, walkable retail to get people out and make areas more lively

These responses were used to refine the plan goals and develop recommendations for achieving the goals. Due to the interconnectedness and similar responses provided relating to ‘complete’ and ‘connected’ communities, these goals were merged into one goal for ‘Renewing Our Vision’.


Activity 2: What to do with the lands ‘in between”?

For this activity, we defined the “lands in between” as land that is not preserved and not supported by existing or planned transportation infrastructure. We asked participants to what extent they think this land should be developed.

activity2 image

Ninety-five% of respondents (71 of 75) felt that development should occur in or near areas where there is already existing development and infrastructure. Eighty-five% of respondents (66 of 78) felt that development should occur in areas needing minimal transportation improvements or in areas that have major transportation improvements in place or committed to support the development.   Sixty-five% of respondents (42 of 65) feel that most of the pattern of the “lands in between” should be maintained, but that development should be directed to key strategic areas.

A majority of the respondents felt that as a community we should discourage development (either somewhat or highly) in land with natural resources. The lowest was 61% of respondents (47 of 77) for agricultural land and the highest was 91% of respondents (68 of 75) for slopes.  Sixty-six% of respondents (44 of 67) felt that the best way to preserve natural resources is to either regulate with policy and codes or require restorative practices.

These responses informed our recommendations on where growth and development should be focused and how natural resources should be protected.


Activity 3: Where should this go?

For the third activity, we asked participants what criteria are most important for determining where to locate new regional facilities. The four types of facilities that were used as examples were jails, landfills, regional commercial centers, and regional industrial parks.

Station 3 -Survey_Page_1

For jails, regional commercial centers, and regional industrial parks the criterion that received the most votes was replacing/reusing existing buildings before constructing new ones. Multimodal access to these facilities also ranked highly. For landfills, taking safety precautions above & beyond minimum standards when addressing groundwater received the most votes. For jails and landfills, the most common write-in criteria was reducing the need for new facilities through rehabilitation, prevention, education, and job opportunities for jails and through composting, recycling, and reducing waste for landfills. A focus on urban infill as opposed to large centers was the most common write-in criteria for regional commercial centers. Sustainable design was the most common write-in criteria for regional industrial parks.

These responses informed our guidance for decision makers and other agencies involved with siting regional facilities.


What’s next?

The third and final round of public participation for ‘Renewing Our Vision’ is the draft plan review. You will have an opportunity to read the draft and share your comments and questions. Stay tuned and check back for the draft plan to be released at!

Planner Speak: What exactly is a slope?

If you’re an avid skier or snowboarder, you’re probably looking forward to winter when you can hit the slopes and make fresh tracks through the powder. If a planner told you there are steep slopes in Hamilton County, you might look at him in disbelief. We may have gotten a lot of snow last year, but not enough that someone would consider building a ski resort. What exactly do planners mean when they talk about slopes?

Slope (n.) is the steepness of an area of land, or how quickly the land goes up over a certain distance. You can measure the slope of land the same way you measure the slope of a line in algebra class: by dividing the “rise” by the “run”.


Let’s say that you have a piece of land that is 100 feet long, and it rises 20 feet in elevation from one side to the other. The “rise” is 20 feet and the “run” is 100 feet. If you divided 20 by 100, then .2 would be the slope. Usually, planners talk about slope as a percentage. To covert .2 to a percentage, you would multiply by 100 giving you a slope of  20%.


Typically, a slope of 15 – 25% is considered steep, and a slope over 25% is considered very steep. In Hamilton County, over 30% of our land area has a slope of 15% or greater as you can see in the map below.


Our mountains, ridges, and slopes are key features of our natural, scenic beauty. They can offer a beautiful backdrop, especially when the leaves change color in the fall, or a magnificent view of the valley below. The hilly land is one of the defining characteristics of our local identity. It also makes many of the activities that both residents and tourists enjoy possible including hiking, trail running, hang gliding, mountain biking, and rock climbing.

Signal Mountain

Not only do slopes bring scenic beauty and recreational opportunities to our area, but they also play an important role in the health of our natural environment. Slopes that have not been disturbed provide a home for wildlife and improve water quality by slowing or reducing rainwater runoff. Disturbing a slope could involve removing plants or soil or building something on the slope. Disturbing slopes increases the risk of slope failure or instability, meaning that rocks and soil could start to erode, slide, or collapse. For these reasons, it is important to protect steep slopes: for their scenic beauty, for their recreation opportunities, for their role in the health of the natural environment, and to avoid costly repairs to buildings and the infrastructure, such as roads, that would be needed to provide services to buildings on steep slopes.

Where’s Tim Now?

Last week Tim was on the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway. The greenway is a path for walking, running, biking, and skating that runs next to the South Chickamauga Creek. Here is a map of the completed sections of the greenway. The Trust for Public Land is currently working on connecting the missing segments to complete the entire 14-mile greenway and connect it to the Tennessee Riverwalk. For a preview, check out this video tour of the newest section of the greenway.

S Chick Bikers-JT_answer

Planner Speak: What on earth is a streetscape?

You have probably brought back photos of stunning landscapes from a vacation, but what about a streetscape? If someone asked you to take a picture of a streetscape, where on earth would you point your camera?

Streetscape (n.) is the appearance of the street, including the entire area between the buildings on either side of a street. Elements of the streetscape include:

  • the front sides of the buildings;
  • landscaping, such as trees, grass, flowers, and bushes;
  • stormwater management features;
  • sidewalks;
  • signs;
  • street furniture, such as benches, bike racks, trash cans, and water fountains;
  • street lights;
  • features of the road including crosswalks, bike lanes, cycle tracks, parking spaces, travel lanes for cars, dedicated lanes for buses, and medians; and
  • street paving, such as asphalt, concrete, brick, or stone.

17th Street     Flick-user-la-citta-vita-CC-BY-SA-2

Paul-Krueger-CC-BY-2.0-v2     Baker-Co-Tourism-CC-BY-ND-2.0

The streetscape can make a big difference as to whether or not people enjoy and feel comfortable traveling down a street, regardless of if they are walking, biking, driving, or riding transit. Trees and awnings can provide shade or shelter from the rain for people who are walking.  A wide sidewalk, without obstacles in your path, makes it easier to walk side by side and chat with a friend, push a stroller, or get around in a wheelchair. A row of landscaping between cars and a bike lane, also known as a protected bike lane, can make it more comfortable to bicycle on a street with lots of traffic. Walking next to buildings with lots of windows with interesting things to look at is more enjoyable than walking next to a solid, blank wall or a large parking lot that separates the buildings from the sidewalk. Lighting that is directed towards the sidewalk can make it feel safer to walk at night.

The streetscape can also make a big difference as to whether or not a street is a comfortable and attractive place to stop and stay for awhile. Outdoor seating in front of a restaurant allows people to enjoy a meal and watch people passing by. Covered bus shelters can protect you from the elements while you wait for the bus. Bike racks in front of stores give you a place to lock up your bike so you can feel confident that it will be there when you return from running your errands.

If you’d like to try your hand at designing a streetscape, check out Streetmix. We’d love to see what you come up with! Share your designs with us on twitter by tagging @RPAchat or on facebook by tagging @chcrpa.

Planner Speak: What is a flood plain exactly?

When the roads get wet and slippery I know that my car can hydroplane. Can it flood plain too? What is a flood plain exactly?

A flood plain (n.) is the area next to a stream or river that may be covered with water during a flood.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) maps flood plains based on the risk and type of flooding. One line that FEMA draws is the boundary of the 100-year flood zone. Every year there is a 1% chance that flood waters could reach or pass the boundary line of the 100-year flood zone. Don’t let the name mislead you. It is possible for a lot of the land within the 100-year flood zone to flood on a fairly regular basis, far more often than once every hundred years. FEMA considers these lands to be Special Flood Hazard Areas, with a high risk of flooding.

FEMA also maps the boundary line of the 500-year flood zone. Similarly, every year there is a .2% chance that flood waters could reach or pass this boundary line. FEMA considers these lands to have a moderate risk of flooding.


The interactive map below shows the 100-year and 500-year flood zones in Hamilton County as well as the floodways. The floodway is the channel of a river or stream as well as the land next to the channel that has to stay open to carry the deeper, faster moving water during a flood. In the map below, the floodway is blue, the 100-year flood zone is red, and the 500-year flood zone is pink.

Flood plains protect the health and quality of our rivers, lakes, and streams and the water that comes through our faucets. They help to control the flow of water and can absorb pollutants and sediments, such as gravel and clay, before they drain into streams and rivers. Flood plains are home to many types of plants and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. It is important for communities to protect our flood plains both to keep our rivers, lakes, and streams healthy and to keep our homes and businesses from being damaged by floods.

Planner Speak: What do you mean by zoning?

You’ve probably gotten “in the zone” while doing something you enjoy, be that baking a cake, playing an instrument or going for a long run, but what do planners mean when they talk about zoning?

Zoning (n.) categorizes properties in a city or county into different classifications called zones.  Each zone has a set of rules about features of development such as the land use, height of buildings, amount of parking, and density. In the past, zoning has been more concerned with the land uses allowed in each zone than the form of development. As a result, common zoning categories are often residential, commercial, office, manufacturing, warehousing, and agricultural.

You might have heard about zoning in the news when a property owner needed a change of zoning for a development project. To learn more about the rezoning process, check out the Development Services page on the RPA website.

Why do we use zoning? Originally, zoning was created to prevent conflicts between different types of land uses. For example, zoning can be used to keep a large factory, which might produce loud noises and odors, from being built right next to homes.

A zoning ordinance has two major parts: text and a map, or several maps. The text explains the rules for each zone. The map applies the zones to sections of land. Unincorporated Hamilton County and each town and city in the county have their own zoning ordinance. Here are links to the text sections of the zoning ordinances. Here is a zoning map for Hamilton County. Do you know what the zoning is for the property you live on? To find out, click the house icon in the toolbar in the top center of the screen and type in your address. Then, click on the RPA icon to the right of that and click on your property.


Below is a map of the zoning in the MLK Neighborhood of Chattanooga. Properties are color coded according to their zone, and the letters followed by numbers are abbreviations for different zones. For example, the light yellow properties are in the R-1 Residential Zone, the red properties are in the C-3 Central Business Zone, and the bright purple properties are in the M-2 Light Industrial Zone.


Traditional zoning, or zoning that is more concerned with the land uses allowed in each zone than the form of development, is the type of zoning that we see in Hamilton County and the towns and cities in the county. Traditional zoning usually does a good job of preventing conflicts between land uses. However, because it separates land uses, it often means that jobs, shops, and homes are separated from each other. The distances between different types of land uses mean that most people in our county have to drive to get to the places they want to go on a daily basis.

Through our ‘What do you want to grow?‘ game, we learned that two of the public’s top priorities are “neighborhoods with jobs, shops, and grocers” and “transportation options”. Many cities are turning to more innovative types of zoning, such as form-based codes, for neighborhoods that want to have jobs, shops, and homes close together, where it is possible to walk, bike, or take transit to get to the places you go on a daily basis. Form-based codes focus more on how buildings are designed and how they fit in with their surroundings than on the land use. Form-based codes still have rules about land use, but there is more focus on how buildings fit in with the network of streets, public spaces, and other buildings around them.

In the ‘Growing Forward’ planning framework, we will update our codes and policies in step three, ‘Building the Future’. Creating form-based codes for certain districts and neighborhoods may be a part of the code update. In fact, last Tuesday the Chattanooga City Council discussed a demonstration project that would create form-based codes for five different areas in Chattanooga. One of the reasons for updating our codes is to make sure they help us fulfill the vision that we set in step one, ‘Renewing Our Vision’ and step two, ‘Strategy For Great Places’. Now is the time to get involved to help us build a stronger and more vital place to live, work, and play. Keep an eye on our event calendar for upcoming meetings. At these meetings, you will have the chance to review and make suggestions about our goals, the very goals that we will use to guide changes to our codes and policies.

Where’s Tim Now?

Last week Tim was at Tennessee Riverplace, across the Tennessee River from William’s Island. The island is 450 acres and over 2 miles long. The island is owned by the State of Tennessee Division of Archaeology and managed by the Tennessee River Gorge Trust. Although no one lives on the island now, archaeologists have found evidence of human settlements on the island dating back to as early as 12,000 B.C.

Williams Island from TN Riverplace-jt_answer