“What we would like to do is benefit from the battlefield traffic and have Chickamauga as a true gateway to the battlefield,” Chickamauga councilman Daymon Garrett said. “We are hoping to bring tourists to Chickamauga.”
City officials said they would like to funnel tourists from the U.S. 27 bypass, through the commercial properties the city annexed along the highway and into the historic downtown. Officials believe this plan will pump more dollars into the local economy and stimulate further commercial development in the area.
“We have been working on the comprehensive plan for about four months, and we feel that the whole county should work together,” Chickamauga City and Utilities Manager John Culpepper said. “The plan has directions on community facilities, historic resources, population, capital outlay, community vision, education, housing, natural resources, land use, economic development, public participation, intergovernmental participation and greenspace.”
Culpepper said he wants to know in what direction the community wants to go.
“So far I feel like people are happy with a nice quiet place to live, good place to raise children and the small-town atmosphere. It appears that the citizens want to preserve a good quality of life,” Culpepper said. “The plans are simply a draft, and city officials will review it.”
The city needs to grow, but that growth needs to be planned, he said.
“The public does not want to see much change,” zoning administrator Gary Gossett said. “We do not want to overextend.”
“U.S. 27 will continue to expand and, hopefully, new businesses will come in,” said Jim Powell, city school board member and chairman of the city’s Planning Commission.
“We are working on the master document of the comprehensive plan and the community vision right now,” Powell said. “The plans for Chickamauga are beginning to take shape.”
New businesses open
“We are proud of the current stores we have, such as Food Lion, Taco Bell (and more). Chickamauga has been able to lower (city property) taxes due to annexations,” he said.
Chickamauga offers more shopping options than ever before, and people should take advantage of them, he said.
“It is much cheaper to buy locally than to drive to Chattanooga and spend more money, as well as money on gas,” Powell said. “Galleries on Gordon (a downtown business) is a very attractive place, and I think we will see more merchants renovating their store fronts. By word of mouth, we will hope to see more tourists.”
Downtown Chickamauga is attracting tourism with its new shops, such as Jolie Espirit, Mountain City Mercantile, Scarlett’s Tea Room and Galleries on Gordon.
According to owner Cindy Hunt, Scarlett’s Tea Room with its Gone With the Wind theme and antiques attracts tourism.
“It is a quaint atmosphere with friendly people, and it is like eating in someone’s dining room Southern style,” Hunt said, adding the business has attracted customers from Ooltewah, Tenn. “Everyone loves Scarlett. They can not only come here and enjoy the atmosphere, but also the history of Chickamauga.”
“We need some overnight facilities, and hope once development occurs, we will see more overnight facilities,” Culpepper said. “I think that we all recognize that tourism is important to this region, and if we can just get a percentage of people headed to Chattanooga, then that will help the city.”
Culpepper and Gossett have worked with Dr. Ted Cash to convert a historic building into Longstreet’s Charge Condo-miniums. The upscale development will be housed in Cash’s old doctor’s office beside Crawfish Springs and will contain 18 units. City officials hope the condos will appeal to Chattanooga residents and non-Walker County residents and that families and friends visiting condo residents will spend money in local shops.
Website advertises city
Since Chickamauga teamed up with the Chattanooga Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, a website for the city has been set up at www.cityofchickamaugageorgia.org.
The website has recorded 14,695 hits in the past 10 months. Culpepper and Gossett said they hope this interest reflects the number of potential visitors to Chickamauga.
Chickamauga is in a position to capitalize on its historic location. The downtown streetscape program, combined with the business owners’ efforts to give their storefronts a facelift, will draw tourists to the area, according to the vision statement in the comprehensive plan.
“We have all this history and scenic beauty, and if you think about the War between the States, then you will think about Chickamauga,” Culpepper said.
“We want to protect what is here, but U.S. 27 will grow,” Culpepper said. “Walker County is getting on board. The commissioner wants to develop U.S. 27, and I think the future of Chickamauga is bright.”
Studies show economic development will most likely occur along U.S. 27 as the city’s major north-south thoroughfare, and most of the properties the city has annexed there are zoned commercial; however, future development of the highway depends upon annexing and rezoning county residential property along the artery to commercial, according to the comprehensive plan’s vision statement.
Every city needs to grow to generate revenue and this is a work in progress, Culpepper said.
The community vision statement calls for sufficient economic growth to support the required city services.
Gossett said the city needs safeguards to prevent commercial sprawl or large developments that detract from the area’s natural beauty.
Any annexation by Chickamauga should include adoption of the Walker County Development Restrictions, under development by the county at this time, Gossett said.
City leaders also plan to place restrictions on residential development within the city boundaries because few lots remain for home construction, the vision statement said.
“A house in Chickamauga does not stay vacant long,” Culpepper said. “People really want to live here because of low taxes and the excellent school system.