Chattanooga Times Free Press - - OPINION -

Sev­eral times a day, cars pass up and down Dog­wood Lane on the way in or out of the one-lane, two-home, dead-end street on Moc­casin Bend. Not far away, many more cars drive up and down Moc­casin Bend Road to go to Moc­casin Bend Golf Course, Moc­casin Bend Men­tal Health In­sti­tute or the Moc­casin Bend Na­tional Arche­o­log­i­cal District.

De­spite that ex­ist­ing traf­fic, the Chat­tanooga-Hamil­ton County Re­gional Planning Com­mis­sion turned down Mon­day a re­quest by a Dog­wood Lane prop­erty owner to erect a nine-unit bed and break­fast, plus other dwellings, on his 20-acre tract. The rea­son given was the land’s prox­im­ity to the 33-acre law en­force­ment fir­ing range 1 mile away.

With knowl­edge of the com­ing Moc­casin Bend Na­tional Park, prop­erty owner Stephen Hol­men wanted to be strate­gi­cally lo­cated. His prop­erty al­ready was zoned res­i­den­tial, which al­lows him to put town­houses or du­plexes on the ridge-top prop­erty. But he had his eye on a higher and bet­ter use. Since there are al­ready res­i­dents on the street who have been within nearly the same prox­im­ity to the fir­ing range, it is cu­ri­ous why com­mis­sion­ers would be more wor­ried about tourists.

Af­ter all, they can be given warn­ings where they can and where they can­not go to be on park prop­erty. And the pres­ence of a fir­ing range should make them less in­ter­ested in ven­tur­ing out of cur­rent park bound­aries in the first place.

But be­yond what we be­lieve is the planning com­mis­sion’s overly de­fen­sive rul­ing on the prop­erty is the lack of ac­tion on re­lo­cat­ing the fir­ing range.

For more than a decade, the range prop­erty has been promised to the ar­chae­l­og­i­cal district in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the even­tual na­tional park. Plans for an in­door fir­ing range on 12th Street were an­nounced in 2013 but scut­tled a year later when a lack of ac­tion drove the price higher. Then a task force was ap­pointed in 2015 to find a suit­able new area for the fir­ing range and re­port back, but a year later said only it was get­ting close to hand­ing off its work to a sec­ond sub­com­mit­tee.

In the mean­time, less than two months ago, a gen­eral man­age­ment plan for the district re­ceived fi­nal ap­proval. It fea­tures a vis­i­tor cen­ter at the gate­way site, which ex­tends about as close to the shoot­ing range as the Dog­wood Lane site, along with trail signs, recre­ational op­por­tu­ni­ties and im­proved ac­cess to the parcels of land that cur­rently con­sti­tute the district.

Of­fi­cials at the time said planning work could be­gin im­me­di­ately and that the de­sign work and in­stal­la­tion of signs would con­tinue over a year and a half as ef­forts con­tin­ued to move the fir­ing range.

How­ever, Chat­tanooga Po­lice Chief David Roddy told the planning com­mis­sion Mon­day it could be “a cou­ple of years out” be­fore suit­able prop­erty or fund­ing is found.

We be­lieve this ef­fort needs to pick up the pace. As lovely as the site as been for law en­force­ment agen­cies and their fam­i­lies, it now has a higher use as part of the park. We urge city, county and law en­force­ment of­fi­cials to treat this park im­ped­i­ment with more ur­gency and not con­tinue to kick it down the road.

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