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New Scarboro development faces road ownership, traffic concerns

Future housing in Oak Ridge’s Scarboro community is moving ahead, although boards are raising questions about traffic and future ownership of roads.

The City Council unanimously voted to acquire new land at its Jan. 19 meeting.

Then, the Planning Commission recommended rezoning the land to better fit

the development at its meeting Thursday, March 21.

The Planning Commission’s approval came with an amendment requesting a study to address how traffic from the new development’s two entrances would affect the neighborhood.

All the members of Planning Commission voted to approve this amended version except for Jane Shelton, who said she would prefer to have been more involved in earlier steps of the design process.

The rezoning will next go to the City Council.

Planning Commission member Greta Ownby said she is worried about the entrance on Carver Avenue being near Oak Ridge Schools Preschool, and the effects of the other entrance on South Dillard Avenue would have on traffic near residents.

The project will be on currently vacant former city land. The City Council transferred 9.29 acres in September before adding about 1.7 acres near Carver Avenue this month.

The additional acres were to add an entrance along the parking lot to the Scarboro Community Center.

Richelle Patton, president of project developer Collaborative Housing Solutions, told the Planning Commission that it needs two roads into the development so it would be easier for emergency vehicles to come and go.

Several members of the Planning Commission on Thursday discussed whether the city would take control of the South Dillard Avenue access.

One member, David Kitzmiller, said he worried about private owners in the future not taking care of the road and allowing it to break down.

“I don’t want to see everyone pass the buck,” he said.

Shelton said private roads don’t get plowed for snow. “Those people are stuck or they’re shoveling,” he said.

The City Council agenda for the Jan. 19 meeting shows the current concept for the development with 114 new residential units. Ten toward the community center for are for sale, but most are rentals, including apartments and townhomes.

Oak Ridge Housing Authority, a public agency with a board appointed by the city, is partnering with Collaborative Housing Solutions on the development.

Authority President Maria Catron has described these units as “affordable,” which she’s defined as households paying no more than 30% of their gross income toward housing and utility costs.

She has said she intends the new apartments, houses and townhomes to be affordable for people making less than 60% of the median income for their household size.

When addressing the Planning Commission, Catron spoke of people unable to afford their own places who are now living out of cars.

“This is a crisis that’s not going away,” Catron said, regarding the lack of affordable housing in Oak Ridge.

“It’s not going to fix the problem, but it’s a start,” she said of the new development.

Mary Swann, who owns property near one of the entrances, also spoke to the Planning Commission, along with her niece Sherry Hill.

“In my opinion, that’s not a good place for it,” Hill said of the Dillard entrance.

John Spratling, another resident, said the developer had had considered a different entrance, but it was on private land and the owners did not want to sell it.

Swann, who lives in Memphis, said she had not seen any notification other than a sign close to the new road’s location, and criticized the city for not better notifying her.