Wednesday, December 19, 2012
A $100 million development at Highway 153 and Boy Scout Road referred to as Chattanooga Village has been approved by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission and could go to vote before the City Council as soon as Jan. 8.
Planning commissioners were split down the middle on the issue, with Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield casting the deciding vote to approve the project.
The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency staff, planning professionals responsible for making recommendations to the government-appointed members of the Planning Commission, had recommended a 30-day deferral on the vote despite the project’s Dec. 6 approval by the Tennessee Department of Transportation it had requested.
Planning Commissioner Adam Veron made a motion for the vote to be delayed for 60 days so residents would have time to view current plans for the development and provide input prior to the vote. When this motion was rejected by the commission, he attempted to strike a compromise with a 30-day deferral proposal.
“There are questions I feel like people haven’t gotten answered yet,” said Veron, listing the project’s grading and elevation plans and the effectiveness of buffer zones at protecting surrounding neighborhoods. “I wasn’t necessarily against the project; my lack of knowledge and the overall feeling of it not being 100 percent compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods [was the reason for the deferral motion].”
At a community meeting called by the developer at Hixson Community Center held Dec. 11, residents expressed concerns about stormwater management, potential flooding in surrounding neighborhoods, dust from construction, disturbance from lighting and how the project will fit in with the existing community.
“This plan has a lot less disturbance than previous plans we’ve submitted,” said developer Duane Horton.
Roland Aberg, a land planner with Hart Howerton who was hired by Horton, explained that earlier plans called for mass grading of the entire site, but now the project is to be done in phases, concentrating on smaller areas at a time without disturbing the surrounding areas.
Lighting will be integrated at the pedestrian level and will be diverted downward as opposed to less expensive floodlighting, as this type of lighting is less likely to disturb surrounding neighbors, said Horton’s hired real estate strategist Rick Hill at the Dec. 11 meeting.
In addition to as many as 280 apartments, the proposed development includes 250,000 square feet of office space composed of two- to four-story buildings with 1,000 parking spaces, as well as 500,000 square feet of retail space with 2,000 parking spaces.
Aberg said the Regional Planning Agency has built conditions into the project’s retail portion, including restricting store size and requiring stores to face the road and parking to be placed on the side and to the rear.
“It’s more of a village than a mall,” he said of the development’s pedestrian-friendly concept.
The project also includes a 7,500-square-foot “destination restaurant” that will serve as a selling point for the apartments and corporate offices, as well as many smaller cafes and restaurants at a variety of price points, according to Hill and Aberg.
Veron, who is also a resident of the Northern Lights neighborhood adjacent to the development, said he felt more comfortable with the development following the Dec. 11 meeting, but still has questions about the project yet to be answered by the developers.
“I don’t think a project of this size should under any circumstances be rushed,” he said, adding that he appreciates the developer’s efforts to schedule community meetings to gather input. “I think everything needs to be reviewed in extreme detail.”