published Friday, May 4th, 2012

Developer's proposals sought for Lookout Mountain town center project

This architect’s rendering shows the municipal buildings that the city of Lookout Mountain, Ga., proposes to take the place of the existing city hall building at 1214 Lula Lake Road.
This architect’s rendering shows the municipal buildings that the city of Lookout Mountain, Ga., proposes to take the place of the existing city hall building at 1214 Lula Lake Road.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN, Ga. -- City property taxes could increase by 17 percent for 20 years to fund a new town hall, police station and fire station to replace the aging City Hall.

Other than that figure, not much definite came out of a Thursday night City Council meeting that drew about 80 residents. They came for an update on the city's efforts to develop a new town center.

"This can blow up tomorrow," Mayor Bill Glascock said, referring to a large rendering by architect Michael McGowan that showed a new, 2,750-square-foot town hall, a new, 2,500-square-foot police station and the four-bay public works building behind City Hall repurposed as a fire station.

"We want to build something extremely attractive that looks like Rock City, as iconic as Rock City," Glascock said.

The City Council could fund the estimated $1.2 million cost by repealing a sales tax rebate -- in effect, raising taxes.

"I'm saying raising taxes, OK? That's what we're doing ... in order to fund this," said Glascock.

He distributed handouts showing how the increase in millage rates would affect homes of different values.

City property taxes would increase by $87 a year for a $150,000 home; $174 for a $300,000 home; $232 for a $400,000 home; and $290 for a $500,000 home, the handout states.

"We're living in a city where a half-million-dollar home has a [city] property tax of $1,700. That seems reasonable to me," Glascock said.

When Glascock asked for a show of hands to indicate who'd favor proceeding with the civic center, more than half went up.

City Council didn't take action Thursday. City officials still are waiting to see how commercial development might proceed on City Hall's 0.7-acre front lawn. The city bought the land for $270,000 in March from Scott Maclellan.

Developer David DeVaney and Dr. Bill Moore Smith want to build a new medical office in front of the proposed town center as soon as possible.

"I'm really limited where I am," Smith told the crowd, saying his leased office around the corner hasn't enough space for X-ray equipment and medical records.

Developer Jimmy Chapin and Greg Voges, whose family owns about 1.2 acres behind City Hall, have been discussing possibilities with city officials for Voges' land.

Voges hinted that he wanted to do something big, as the late Jack Lupton did by establishing the Tennessee Aquarium.

"Who would have ever thought that a fish bowl would have brought the whole city of Chattanooga back?" Voges asked the audience.

"We're talking about ... making sure that this site is community-oriented and resident-oriented and not just some city buildings going up," he said later, mentioning an amphitheater and green space combined with shopping as a possibility.

"If you're a developer, and you've got an idea, bring it in," Councilman Blair Ramey said.

The city will put out a request for proposals to developers, Glascock said after the meeting.

"I would say that we're going to go back to the drawing board," he said.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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