Northshore residents says development on steep hillside is causing them issues after rain

Four property owners we talked with Monday all believe bad land development practices have led to erosion so serious, the runoff is causing all kinds of problems. (Image: WTVC)

People who live in North Chattanooga have many reasons to love their neighborhood, and one of them is the steep hillsides that make dramatic and lovely building lots.

But, digging on those hillsides, can also lead to big problems when it rains.

After last week's heavy downpours, NewsChannel 9 heard from several residents living around one street on the Northshore, and they are questioning the building practices of one company.

That neighborhood says it's still dealing with problems after last week's rain.

It's not a fallen tree or downed power lines causing issues, though. It's the effects of erosion.

Northshore residents say the problem started with the building of new homes on steep lots and they've been trying for years to get it fixed.

Four property owners we talked with Monday all believe bad land development practices have led to erosion so serious, the runoff is causing all kinds of problems.

Full disclosure, one of those property owners is WTVC General Manager, Mike Costa.

Neighbors say rain water always comes rushing down the hill on Knickerbocker Avenue.

Heather Degaetano says signs of erosion are left behind everywhere.

"I do worry about the volume of water and its quickness coming down the street," she said.

Collapsing bricks and a disappearing shoulder lead to a buckled bottom of the road at the end of the hill.

Degaetano says it's been a pattern since developers cleared part of a steep hill across from her home nearly three years ago.

"What happens is that the water comes very quickly off of this hill now," she said. "There's nothing to absorb it. There's nothing to stop it. I think we all really worry about it."

Jim Johnson loves living nearby in Chattanooga.

"I want to feel the same way for then next 20 years," he said.

That's why he started an advocacy group called Chattanoogans for Responsible Development.

"There's a broader cause for concern," he said.

He says what's happening on Knickerbocker Avenue points to a need for review of city policies that deal with any building on steep slopes.

"Not just to say no you can't do this, but to say to developers, 'hey this is how they did it in this other city. Have you thought of doing it this way?'" he said.

Degaetano says, "I'm not opposed to thoughtful development. I'm really not."

She says she and other neighbors have tried hard to work with GreenTech developers to fix the problems.

"It's been like having another part time job," she said.

Over emails Degetano showed us, Chris Anderson with GreenTech told neighbors the pictures they sent him were taken during an unusual "major flood event," and Anderson told the neighbors other builders are also responsible, writing, "Not all of that water comes from us."

We got a statement from GreenTech late this afternoon.

"At GreenTech, we strive to improve the areas in which we develop. In this particular area of North Chattanooga, city government officials have informed that there is inadequate stormwater infrastructure. The city is working to improve this situation over time and within budget limitations.
Our site on Knickerbocker had previous stormwater issues but the issues have been addressed and the site was found to be compliant last week. Recently, the GreenTech team including engineers examined the area along with city officials including representatives from the stormwater division. Our goal was to resolve some of the existing stormwater issues with the area. GreenTech has funded, designed and installed storwmater improvements for the City of Chattanooga in order to alleviate some of the flooding issues.
In the last month, Chattanooga has experienced two '100-year-flood' events resulting in numerous streets across the city being flooded. We encourage everyone who wants to see infrastructure improvements in the area to report flooding issues to 311."

Neighbors say they've called representatives from the city out several times.

We filed an open records request to see if GreenTech has been cited for anything going on here.

We're still working to determine what department regulates storm water compliance in a case like this.

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