Wednesday, July 23, 2014 · 12:02 p.m.
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The Hamilton County Commission. (Photo: Staff)

Hamilton County commissioners voted Wednesday to rezone a rural area in Ooltewah for a planned unit residential development, despite strong objections from a nearby resident.

"We as citizens are not being heard," said Tammy Martin, who spoke in opposition to the change on behalf of her neighbors. 

Commissioners politely explained to Martin that the zoning was authorized by state law and expressed confidence in county engineers to ensure that any changes to the area would not result in runoff flooding to the homes and property of nearby residents.

Still, Martin said she felt as if she had been "pushed against a wall" by commissioners and members of the Regional Planning Agency when she and others had voiced concerns in previous meetings. Martin said her personal experience had been compounded after her husband passed away two months ago. 

"For the past six weeks, I have been consumed with trying to protect my property and my home from potential damage that I feel is real," she said. "Instead of being allowed to grieve, I'm faced with constant worry over losing my home, and [I] ask myself, 'Should I sell now while I have property value, or do I wait till when I have a potential flood and my property value decreases?'"

Several commissioners expressed sympathies to Martin and offered reasons for why they would approve the change.

Commissioner Fred Skillern said he had experienced similar situations regarding owners of land that had been zoned for agricultural use being upset over new developments being built. 

"Our hands are tied of what we can do and what we can't do on certain things," he said. "… I haven't liked this for 12 years, but I can't change it. It's the state law, not the commission's law."

Commissioner Joe Graham called Martin a "brave woman" for standing up for her property rights, but asked her to trust county engineers who understood how water flow would be affected. 

"We have to put our faith in the professionals that do it," he said. 

The commission voted 7-2 to approve the resolutions. 

Both Commissioners Marty Haynes and Chester Bankston voted no. 

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