published Friday, September 28th, 2012

Lookout Mountain may change ordinances for town center

This rendering by architectural designer Garth Brown shows the town center proposed by developers Jimmy Chapin and Greg Voges. At front, left is a commercial building with a clock tower. Clockwise from it are city hall, a police and
fire station and another commercial building fronting Lula Lake Road. An amphitheater is built into the hill behind the city buildings.
This rendering by architectural designer Garth Brown shows the town center proposed by developers Jimmy Chapin and Greg Voges. At front, left is a commercial building with a clock tower. Clockwise from it are city hall, a police and fire station and another commercial building fronting Lula Lake Road. An amphitheater is built into the hill behind the city buildings.

It's illegal to sell hard liquor within 1,000 yards of a church or school in Lookout Mountain, Ga., under a city ordinance approved in 1977.

But that 35-year-old ordinance is one of the things that worries developer Jimmy Chapin, who wants to build a new town center anchored by a grocery store on Lula Lake Road.

The land, now home to the outmoded City Hall building, is within 1,000 yards of Lookout Mountain United Methodist Church and Fairyland Elementary School.

"One of the things that scares me about this is getting bogged down in the gunk," Chapin said at Thursday night's City Council meeting, which attracted about a dozen people.

He expressed concern about 10 potential stumbling blocks in the town-center plan, mentioning stormwater easements and condominium lot lines as issues.

The City Council unanimously made a move meant to soothe Chapin's fears.

The council appointed Councilmen Jim Sabourin and David Bennett and City Attorney William Pickering to meet with Chapin to work out proposed changes to city ordinances to help his project move forward.

"The idea is, we hammer something out and bring it back to the full council for approval," Pickering said.

The three-man committee doesn't have to hold public meetings, since two council members don't comprise a quorum. The city has done things similarly in the past, Pickering said.

Both Sabourin and Bennett said they're amenable to Chapin's proposed development.

"In spirit, do we believe this is the right thing for the city?" Sabourin asked Thursday night. "I do."

At one point, Chapin turned in his chair to ask Planning Commission Chairman Earl Carstens Jr., who was sitting next to him, if Carstens had any objections.

"Really not," Carstens said. "It doesn't fit the rules. If it's the will of the city, how do we make it happen?"

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 township┬╣s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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