published Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Developer to withdraw Hixson project, seek more community input

Developer Duane Horton presents his plan March 12 for the shopping and residential development on the north end of Highway 153.
Developer Duane Horton presents his plan March 12 for the shopping and residential development on the north end of Highway 153.
Photo by Tim Barber.

WHAT'S NEXT

The developer plans to address concerns by forming an advisory council to find common ground between the landowners' plan and community members' desires.


PUBLIC COMMENTS

Anyone with comments on the proposed 190-acre mixed-use development near the intersections of Highways 153 and 27 may email 153@sceniclandcompany.com.

The developer who proposed a 190-acre project off Highway 153 plans to restart the government approval process he began last October.

The mixed-use development would have needed to overcome stiff opposition from community members and a city planning agency recommendation against it to gain Chattanooga City Council approval.

Duane Horton, president of Scenic Land Co. and project coordinator, said Monday he will withdraw his application for project approval at tonight's city council meeting.

"Everybody's got a little bit different of an issue on it. We just have to work with all the different interested parties," he said. "We're going to continue to refine it as we get feedback from the community, but the plan is solid and well-founded."

The project has drawn traffic, environmental and feasibility concerns from neighbors since it was first introduced. Horton plans to address those concerns by forming an advisory council to find common ground between the landowners' plan and community members' desires.

City Council member Pam Ladd is helping Horton put the advisory group together.

"Sometimes out of these, when you get all the heads together, you get a better product," she said. "Certainly I know of developers who have worked with those in opposition to see if they could mediate a better plan that would be acceptable by those that were in strong opposition, and it's worked well."

As now planned, more than half of the project would be a mix of commercial office space and 240 apartments. Horton expects the apartments and office space would go up quickly, with retail development phasing in later.

Whether or not Horton is able to change his plan and obtain city council approval, area leaders expect the site will be developed.

"Something is going to happen there. Trying to push it off and hope that everything will go away and nothing will ever happen is not realistic," Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said. "We need to sit down and say, 'OK, how do we deal with the concerns.'"

Going forward, Horton expects to clarify some parts of his plan and change others. Once plans are finalized, he will submit them to the Chattanooga/Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency, which will study the new proposal and recommend whether the city council should approve it.

Gregory Vickrey, director of the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy and an outspoken opponent of the project, still hopes opponents will attend tonight's council meeting to show their concern about the project.

But he called the formation of the advisory council positive.

"We're going to share our concerns every step of the way," Vickrey said. "While this is a small step, it could lead to a much better ending for Hixson."

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