Thursday, December 1, 2011
The new Chattanooga Village development set to replace a scenic hilltop at the intersection of Highway 153 and Boy Scout Road is drawing the attention of area residents and conservationists.
Project developers Duane Horton, principal of GenTech Construction and president of Scenic Land Co., and Frank Cowden III of Regent Properties addressed some of the questions posed by interested parties at a recent meeting of the Hixson Chamber Council.
The topography of the land and traffic access are two of the main challenges faced by the developers. Rezoning of the area would allow developers to remove 190 acres, or more than 100,000 tons of earth from the hilltop, according to a Statement of Environmental Concerns prepared by North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy.
Soddy-Daisy resident Denny Haldeman, who owns land adjacent to NCCC and said he drives through the area every day, is concerned with maintaining its aesthetics.
“I donated 22 acres of prime real estate to help save the viewshed,” he said.
Haldeman said he is also worried about the land-moving aspect of the project after seeing what happened with The Fountains of North Chattanooga, the shopping center located nearby on Highway 153 which contains Kohl’s and Academy Sports + Outdoors.
“There’s still a lot of erosion on site,” he said. “They essentially leveled off paradise and put up a parking lot.”
Horton said their plan is to develop the retail properties — including a movie theater, retail center and grocery store — in stages, and to spread topsoil over and replant parts of the property not included in the phase being developed.
Nearby residents said they are concerned about traffic as well as an increase in the flooding issues they already experience.
As the plan stands now, the center would have four entry points, three along Highway 153. Cowden said the development will not have an access point from Boy Scout Road, which does not have the infrastructure to support the traffic flow. One possibility discussed is creating a loop within the property, allowing only right turns into the development and right turns out, said Horton.
A traffic study to determine whether the development would negatively affect traffic is required before the project can proceed.
Jerry Jones, a retired engineer with the Tennessee Department of Transportation, said he is worried about the large amount of water which would flow from the development onto Sandswitch Road, which already has issues with flooding.
The NCCC document states rezoning of the property would allow a commercial facility which could discharge upwards of 1 million gallons of stormwater pollution every time it rains. The sediment and chemicals carried with runoff from paved portions will degrade water not only for wildlife but also for recreation, irrigation and livestock use, according to the NCCC report.
“There are extensive federal runoff regulations that exist and we will be exceeding all of those,” said Horton.
He said they plan to create a staged detention pond to slow stormwater runoff from the property.
“We want the site to function better than it is today,” he said. “Right now, due to the slopes, water does run off more quickly than if it were a flat piece of property.”
Two wetlands will be affected by the development, as well as the only significant corridor for wildlife between the Tennessee River and the uplands, said NCCC Executive Director Gregory Vickrey.
“They’ve not even begun to address a broad range of environmental concerns from a regulatory perspective,” said Vickrey, who during the meeting proposed the developers seek a peer review or environmental assessment.
Since the developers are working directly with property owners Jack and Carolyn Lonas, Vickrey said they can basically do whatever they want within the confines of zoning regulations, as there is no potential for investors to sue in a straight property case.
He said he plans to meet with Horton after Thanksgiving and will continue to monitor the process.
The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission will have its hearing on whether the property will be rezoned for commercial use Dec. 12, at which point it will pass to the Chattanooga City Council for the final decision. Planning Commission meetings take place at 1 p.m. in room 402 on the fourth floor of the Hamilton County Courthouse, located at 625 Georgia Ave.