Where’s Tim Now?

Thanks for joining Tim on his adventure, exploring the Chattanooga-Hamilton County region!

Last week, Tim was canoeing on Wolftever Creek. The creek flows through gaps in White Oak Mountain and empties into Chickamauga Lake. If you would like to paddle Wolftever Creek, the boat launch is off of Highway 58. You can also enjoy the creek by walking, running, or biking on the Wolftever Creek Greenway, which runs from Collegedale to Southern Adventist University. Along the way you can stop and enjoy lunch at one of the many picnic tables, play at the Imagination Station, let your dog play in the dog park, or attend one of the many festivals held at Veterans Memorial Park.

Tomorrow Tim will be setting out on a new adventure! Be sure to visit our facebook page or follow us on twitter to see where Tim goes next.


Planner Speak: So what exactly is a plan?

Community planners have a way of taking words that are used in everyday conversations and giving them a new meaning. The word ‘plan’ is a perfect example. You have probably planned out a vacation before: where to go, how to get there, what to do, where to stay, even created a long-term plan for what you hope to accomplish 20 years from now. You may have created a business plan about how your company can grow and adapt to a changing world. Planning is something we all do in our own lives, many times without even realizing how often we do it. 

When community planners use the word ‘plan’, it is rooted in that same concept of looking towards the future and making decisions about what we hope will happen, but when planners talk about ‘plans’ they are referring to something slightly different than a plan for your vacation or your personal goals.


A plan (n.) is a set of action statements that the government has formally adopted. The action statements can be presented as text or visually through maps and graphics. Plans give decision makers the information they need to make decisions that affect the physical, social, and economic growth of a community or region. There are many different types of plans, covering areas small and large and covering all of the issues that are key to advancing great places.

Last week we introduced the term ‘land use’ and explained what a land use plan is. Land use is only one of many issues that a plan can cover. Plans can also examine issues such as:

  • housing: making sure people have places to live;
  • transportation: making sure both people and things can get to the places they need to go;
  • critical and sensitive areas: identifying areas with natural resources that should be protected; and
  • economic development: identifying areas that need more investment to encourage businesses to locate there and bring more jobs to the area.

Housing-2013          Transport-2013

Not only do plans focus on a wide variety of issues, but there are also many types of plans. The areas that the plans cover can range in size from a single site, corridor, or neighborhood to an entire city or region. The plan can range in scope from accessing neighborhood strength and weaknesses to studying market shifts and water quality changes. Examples of different types of plans include:

  • reuse plans, which identify how a vacant site or a site with a vacant building could be put back into use;
  • area plans, which provide specific recommendations for a place like a neighborhood, riverfront, or downtown;
  • system plans, which identify projects needed to maintain, improve, or expand systems like the sewer or public transit; and
  • comprehensive plans, which explore a broad range of interrelated issues, such as housing, transportation, and economic development; and define the big picture vision, principles, and policies for a city or region.

Comp-2006           Comp-2014

Updating the comprehensive plan for the Chattanooga-Hamilton County region, or Renewing Our Vision, is the first step of the RPA’s Growing Forward framework. How exactly is a plan updated? At this very moment, the RPA is studying the trends in our region, anticipating how we will grow into the future, and identifying the issues that are priorities for our community.  We need your help for the next phase of the update: public participation. Check back next week to learn more about public participation and how you can help set the vision, principles, and policies for our region.



Miller, B. (2009). Plans that fit the purpose. In Hack, G., Birch, E. L., Sedway, P. H., & Silver, M. J. (Eds.), Local planning: Contemporary principles and practice. Washington, DC: ICMA Press.

Sendich, E. (Ed.). (2006). Planning and urban design standards. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Where’s Tim Now?

Thanks for joining Tim on his adventure, exploring the Chattanooga-Hamilton County region!

Last week, Tim was at the Chattanooga Market at the First Tennessee Pavilion. Have you ever been to a farmers’ market?

Opening day for the Chattanooga Market is this Sunday, April 27th. To learn more, visit chattanoogamarket.com, or to find a farmers’ market near you, visit TasteBuds online.

Tomorrow Tim will be setting out on a new adventure! Be sure to visit our facebook page or follow us on twitter to see where Tim goes next.


Planner Speak: What on earth is land use?

Have you ever had a conversation with a community planner? Sometimes it can sound like they’re speaking another language. They might throw around terms like infrastructure and acronyms like NAICS without even batting an eyelash.

We want to translate ‘planner speak’ into language that everyone can understand without having the ‘Dictionary of Urban and Regional Planning’ on hand. Each week, we’ll break down a term that planners use to discuss cities and regions. This week, we’ll introduce you to ‘land use’.

Land use (n.) is the way a property is utilized. For example, whether you live in an apartment, house, mobile home, or condominium, your home is a residential land use. General categories of land use include residential, commercial, industrial, institutional, and vacant.

     Residential2          Industrial

 Institutional          Vacant


When a property has more than one type of land use, it is called a mixed-use development. For example, if a glass blower lives above her studio and gallery, that would be a mixed-use development. Her studio is an industrial land use because she is manufacturing glass art and dinnerware. Her gallery is a commercial land use because people come to buy her glass products. If she lives above her work space and shop, then that adds residential to the mix of land uses. We will dig deeper into the term ‘mixed-use’ in a future entry.

When planners talk about ‘land use planning’, they mean figuring out how to arrange land uses. If land uses are arranged well, the government can better meet people’s needs, protect limited resources, and prevent conflicts between different types of land uses. A conflict might arise between land uses if something that makes loud noises or smells is too close to where people live or if a business that is for adults only is too close to a school or neighborhood. If the places that people live, work, play, and shop are close together, then they won’t have to travel as far and may even be able to walk or bike there.

A land use plan establishes the type, character, and magnitude of different land uses within an area. The character of land use involves things like how the buildings are designed and arranged along the street. The magnitude of land use is about the scale or intensity. For example a residential land use could range in magnitude from a home for one family to a collection of apartment buildings for hundreds of families on a single property.

A land use plan is only one of many types of plans. Check back next week for a deep dive into the term ‘plan’, the many types of plans that exist, and how they are made.



Dumouchel, J. R. (1975). Dictionary of development terminology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Robert, R. W. , & Webber, S. (1978). Land use in a nutshell. St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Company.


Meet the RPA

RPAThe Regional Planning Agency (RPA) is a joint agency of the City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County.  The staff is comprised of professional city planners, urban designers, researchers, graphic designers and administrative personnel.  It is governed by an Executive Committee that includes the Hamilton County Mayor, the Chattanooga Mayor, the County Commission Chair, the Chattanooga City Council Chair, and the Planning Commission Chair.

Its major responsibilities include developing land use plans, transportation plans, zoning administration, development policies, and reviewing new subdivisions and other development projects.   Each month, the RPA also sends staff recommendations for zoning requests to the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission and other area Planning Commissions (Signal Mountain, Soddy-Daisy, and Red Bank) for their consideration.

With the exception of the administration of the Transportation Planning Organization (TPO), which covers the northern portions of Catoosa, Walker, and Dade counties in Georgia, the RPA’s jurisdiction lies within Hamilton County.

Who are these planners, researchers, and other experts? Meet them here.


Welcome to the Growing Forward website! We live in a great region that offers a variety places to live and work.  It is surrounded by some of the best scenery and outdoor opportunities that can be found in the entire country. Whether you live in a city, town, suburb, countryside, on a mountain or in the valley, we all share an interest in keeping our places special and economically strong as we grow. The Chattanooga-Hamilton County area is expected to add 115,000 people and 83,000 jobs in the next 30 years. We can already see this growth taking place in areas such as Chattanooga’s downtown/riverfront, East Brainerd and Ooltewah. This growth is resulting in changes in our living and mobility needs.

If there is a time for planning, it is now.

We need a fresh vision for Chattanooga-Hamilton County that defines what we want our places to become. We need a new policy framework that will guide decisions about new development and infrastructure so they move us toward our vision.   We also need to update our development standards in order to make it easier to build the type of places that we want. Our first step in this effort is to update our Comprehensive Plan which defines the overall vision, principles and policies for the Chattanooga-Hamilton County region. Later this spring, you will get the chance to hear how our communities are changing and the resulting issues and opportunities to consider as we frame a new vision. We will be asking for your feedback.

We need your help in this effort. No one knows as much about your place as you! Look for opportunities to participate in this web-site.


John Bridger,

Executive Director

Chattanooga Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency