R.O.W. discussion still 2 months away

By AUTUMN HUGHES
Posted 3/27/19

It will be at least two months before the Bradley County Commission’s Road Committee will take up discussion of a proposed resolution to allow the county to better control how the rights of way on county roads are used. The proposed resolution faced opposition from the Ocoee Region Builders Association last month, which was followed by additional review and compromise with Sandra Knight, Bradley County’s road superintendent.

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R.O.W. discussion still 2 months away

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It will be at least two months before the Bradley County Commission’s Road Committee will take up discussion of a proposed resolution to allow the county to better control how the rights of way on county roads are used.

The proposed resolution faced opposition from the Ocoee Region Builders Association last month, which was followed by additional review and compromise with Sandra Knight, Bradley County’s road superintendent.

Chairman Kevin Raper said at the last Road Committee meeting Knight and ORBA President Blake Allison were encouraged to meet to go over issues of concern. He asked if that had happened.

“This past Thursday, we met,” Knight said.

“I heard there was some progress, I don’t know to what extent,” Raper said.

Knight said she and Allison went through the resolution based on parts ORBA brought up with concerns. She said there are about five places in the resolution she agreed to reword.

“I think we pretty well resolved all the differences we had with some revising,” Knight said.

Commissioner Dennis Epperson said he was one of four ORBA representatives who met with Knight. Epperson and Allison are partners and co-owners of Epperson Homes, LLC.

Epperson said ORBA appreciates the opportunity to meet with Knight and for her trying to “make it all work.” He said ORBA is waiting on the new copy of the resolution from Knight, based on their discussion. The proposed resolution will then go to ORBA’s Government Affairs Committee for a recommendation to pass along to ORBA’s board of directors.

Raper asked Knight if she can get the updated proposed resolution to ORBA in a week.

“I’ll have it done by this afternoon,” Knight said during Monday’s meeting, adding she will email it to Lorri Moultrie, executive administrative assistant to the County Commission; Epperson; Allison; and Melvin Holmes with Volunteer Energy Cooperative.

Raper asked Epperson if a month is enough time for ORBA to have its committee and board meetings. Epperson said it is.

“It was a good meeting,” Epperson said of the session with Knight.

Commissioner Louie Alford asked if ORBA doesn’t agree with the revised proposed resolution, “then where are we?” Epperson said he won't know how to answer that question until ORBA has its meetings.

Raper said it sounds like the Road Committee needs to set a deadline of a month for ORBA to make a decision of whether or not to support the proposed resolution.

Commissioner Charlotte Peak, who is not a member of the Road Committee, said in her capacity as a local builder, “I still have issues” with the proposed resolution, especially when it comes to Knight previously saying she’d have “more teeth to enforce” the resolution. Peak said she also has issues with assessing fines on developers and builders, overreach, and duplication of existing laws. She added she is not sure how this proposed resolution can change wording in a state law.

Commissioner Mike Hughes said to Epperson he trusts that Epperson made good choices to help ORBA and local builders. Hughes also asked Knight if she changed wording in articles from Tennessee Code Annotated listed in the resolution.

Knight said she didn’t, but some articles of TCA give a range of options. For example, for installation of underground communications lines, trenches are to kept open 60 days to give time for review by the utilities, but that can be cut to 10 days.

“I can enforce all the stuff that’s in here now,” Knight said, noting that civil offenses can be directed to the county attorney and criminal offenses can be directed to the 10th Judicial District Attorney General.

Speaking on proposed fines, Knight said the resolution can stipulate that any issues have to come to the Road Committee before a fine can be issued.

Peak reiterated her concerns about creating a new resolution when there are already laws in place.

Epperson, speaking in his capacity as a county commissioner, said “it’s hard wearing two hats … with this particular issue” and noted the proposed resolution takes assessing and collecting fines from state control to be handled locally. He asked who will collect those fines and where the money will go.

Knight said she will confer with the County Technical Assistance Service’s attorneys for an opinion.

Epperson questioned whether the city of Chattanooga has discussed this resolution, noting he would like to see a copy “if they have acted on it.” Raper agreed he would like to share information from Chattanooga with the Road Committee.

Commissioner Tim Mason asked how many votes from ORBA would it take to approve supporting the resolution. Epperson said it would require a majority vote of the board of directors.

“Do you think we can find a happy medium?” Mason asked.

Epperson said ORBA’s representatives and Knight worked on language in the proposed resolution that ORBA had concerns with and made “good changes.”

Alford asked to hear from ORBA a week before the next Road Committee meeting so the members would have time to review.

Hughes said he would rather not table the issue, suggesting giving two months for ORBA to respond with either support or opposition. He said the longer time period may be beneficial because they are not “making headway” on the issue otherwise.

Ultimately, committee members approved a motion to postpone the vote on the proposed resolution regarding rights of way for two months, giving Knight and ORBA time to continue to work together, as well as time to receive information from the City of Chattanooga on any similar resolution.

Information was requested to be submitted for the committee’s review by May 22, a week ahead of a May 29 Road Committee meeting.


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