published Sunday, January 6th, 2013

Chattanooga Village faces bogus smear campaign

For weeks, the developers behind Chattanooga Village — the promising mixed-use development proposed off state Highway 153 near Boy Scout Road — have been under attack for their efforts to bring jobs, homes and opportunity to Hixson.

Opponents of the project claim that Chattanooga Village will be an eyesore, create a traffic bottleneck and, due to potential stormwater runoff problems, become a menace to the environment.

The only problem is that the concerns simply aren’t credible.

According to documents submitted in hopes of receiving zoning approval to go forward with project and recent statements by Chattanooga Village developers, each of those issues has been addressed.

The stormwater concerns will be alleviated by a state-of-the-art drainage system that far exceeds standards required by Chattanooga, according to Duane Horton of Scenic Land Company, the development company behind the project. Improvements to Highway 153 are expected to occur before the project is completed, and Chattanooga Village will include bicycle and pedestrian access to help reduce traffic congestion.

The project will maintain 67 acres of green space for recreation and relaxation. Further, according to current plans, Chattanooga Village won’t even be visible from the highway. Environmentalists should be excited to learn that the project’s developer constructed Chattanooga’s first LEED-certified building.

Chattanooga Village simply won’t bring the gloom and doom opponents predict. What the project will bring, however, are dozens of new retail stores, a quarter-million square feet of office space and 280 higher-end apartments — not to mention hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in economic growth — all things the Hixson area desperately needs.

•••

So who would make baseless, unjustified attacks against a project that, from all indications, would be an environmentally sound, economically beneficial project for Hixson?

The answer, it seems, is CBL & Associates Properties Inc.

CBL purchased Northgate Mall in 2011 and is planning to renovate the facility this year. Apparently CBL is afraid of the competition that Chattanooga Village, which is slated to be built four miles north of Northgate Mall on Highway 153, could pose.

Instead of embracing Chattanooga Village as a partner in driving more shoppers to the Hixson area, or trying to battle for customers on a fair playing field, CBL decided to fight the development.

Since it would seem pathetic and transparent for CBL to start a smear campaign against the Chattanooga Village project, they apparently got someone else to do it.

Specifically, CBL hired Waterhouse Public Relations to drum up opposition to the Chattanooga Village project. Waterhouse, knowing that nothing riles up the public like an environmental crisis, decided to invent one. The PR firm then worked with the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy to stir up opposition based on the phony fears about stormwater runoff, environmental damage and traffic flow issues.

A Waterhouse employee, Nathalie Strickland, has served as an unofficial liaison between Waterhouse and the Conservancy, helping the nonprofit environmental group develop its melodramatic “Don’t Chop the Hilltop” messaging and sharpen efforts to oppose the Chattanooga Village project. In a recent public forum held by Chattanooga City Council Chair Pam Ladd, Strickland was seen planting questions critical of Chattanooga Village in the audience.

Further, Waterhouse has provided the Conservancy with promotional materials, including the “Don’t Chop the Hilltop” T-shirts that Chattanooga Village opponents often wear to public meetings. Few who see the shirts could imagine that, ultimately, the people behind the opposition are the owners of Northgate Mall.

These tactics seem all in a day’s work for Waterhouse. The PR firm is known for snatching thousands of dollars from taxpayers (with the assistance of inept elected officials) for seemingly simple PR projects.

Waterhouse worked with Mayor Ron Littlefield to collect more than $100,000 from Chattanooga taxpayers, in part, for a recycling awareness stunt called “Chattanooga Rocky, the Recycling Raccoon.” The firm also snagged $98,000 from East Ridge residents for maintaining former Mayor Mike Steele’s monthly blog and creating the city’s Facebook page — two projects that most any 14-year-old in America would have done for a Taylor Swift CD and a Starbucks gift card.

While Waterhouse’s latest effort doesn’t involve pocketing fistfuls of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars, it may ultimately be much worse for Chattanooga area residents. The myths created about Chattanooga Village by CBL, Waterhouse and the Conservancy could ultimately kill off hundreds of jobs, cost the city and county millions in tax revenues and prevent the much-needed renaissance of the Hixson area.

•••

Community discussions about legitimate environmental concerns are critical. If the Chattanooga Village development goes forward — and, for the future of Hixson and its residents, let’s hope it does — local officials should work to ensure that the project maintains its commitment to ensuring the project is as environmentally friendly as possible.

Invented environmental concerns drummed up by a PR firm and a group of environmental extremists serving as a front for a potential competitor in hopes of dooming the Chattanooga Village project before ground is ever broken, however, are shameful and embarrassing.

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aae1049 said...

Local citizen watch groups for good government have been concerned about the $100,000 waste raccoon for along time. See Waterhouse, gets um elected, so the fix gov contracts for him. What a scam. Great work.

http://fuparty.wordpress.com/?s=waterhouse

January 6, 2013 at 12:11 a.m.
soitgoes said...

If the author of this piece spent more time reading the actual documents of the case, instead of fabricating a misleading smear story, it might actually matter. Unfortunately, he has a reputation for this sort of shallow, meager behavior around town.

This started more than a year ago as a case of the Hixson community rising up against a crappy development and a crappy developer, and it remains so.

January 6, 2013 at 12:29 a.m.
Gidget said...

It didn't take long for CBL and Waterhouse to try to disguise their comments on this editorial with the name "Soitgoes" and I'm sure more will follow.

I can't believe someone would stoop so low as to pose as concerned citizen - oh wait - that's what Waterhouse has done to drum up support for the nonexistent issue.

Regarding the author's reputation, I have heard him speak at a local civic organization and it's my understanding that he has a reputation of exposing corruption around town. I guess, Soitgoes, when you are apart of the problem that the author exposes it isn't surprising that you stoop to calling him "shallow" and "meager."

January 6, 2013 at 1:34 a.m.
soitgoes said...

Sorry to disappoint your strawman, Gidget, but I am just a resident of Hixson who pays attention.

January 6, 2013 at 2:21 a.m.
cooljb said...

I would not doubt this is certainly possible, Black Creek did the same to recreation users of Aetna Mountain. By the way, the name is Aetna, not Black Creek Mountain for you that think otherwise.

January 6, 2013 at 9:57 a.m.
thetimwallis said...

Due to my interest in this development as an owner of a business in Hixson, and as a Hixson resident, I have attended many (if not all) of the public meetings that have been held by both the developer, the Regional Planning Agency, and Pam Ladd. I've seen many Hixson residents ask thoughtful questions and raise legitimate concerns about this development: This is a HUGE project, roughly the size of Hamilton Place Mall, and therefore deserves a great deal of scrutiny. It would be a shame if this beautiful piece of land which resides at one of the main entryways into Hixson, would turn into an eyesore like the unfinished "Fountains" development across the street.

I think that a healthy, informative debate about this project is useful since it impacts so many residents and businesses. To call that debate a smear campaign seems odd to me. After all, the type of discourse that brings valid concerns like these to light and addresses them before ground is broken is what makes projects like this better when they are ultimately built.

January 6, 2013 at 10:55 a.m.
aae1049 said...

Yes, CoolJB

The Developers at Aetna Mtn are a bunch of politico donors It is important to identify, which side is playing the lie game. Shame on CBL and Waterhouse in Hixson.

Shame on the elected officials that let this happen.

http://littlechicagowatch.com/2012/06/black-creek-mountain-group-tif-financial-if/

January 6, 2013 at 11:43 a.m.
MyGen said...

My girlfriend lives in the Hixson area. In speaking with her dad, he makes a point that's been made even in this article.

If you live in Hixson, you don't want another development that's really not needed, more traffic, and another area for crime. But it seems that the property rights of those actually living in the area aren't as important as the opinions of the politicians like Pam Ladd and this editor who don't live in Hixson.

January 6, 2013 at 6 p.m.
aae1049 said...

Oh Please, The developers have Derryberry PR working for them, who is the campaign manager for Pam Ladd. Watershouse PR did indeed cease the citizen opposition opp for the financial benefit of CBL.

Both Watershouse, CBL, and Derryberry have $$$ on the brain. Pam Ladd is the worst elected official in the city, a complete sell out to big money. You will be disappointed if you count on either side. They are both LIARS.

January 6, 2013 at 6:17 p.m.
librul said...

Shallow? Meager? How refined and reserved! Reading this crap, "incorrigibly corrupt and unforgivably biased editorial douchebag" seems more applicable.

January 7, 2013 at 12:15 a.m.
aae1049 said...

As it turns out, If you post under your real name, people will call you and demand you retract any error. Like anyone cares, what posters or I think. I guess I could post under a fake user name, like everyone else, and enter the wild wild west.

Anyway, as it turn out, the caller confirmed that yes Watershouse PR is inciting the citizen opposition for the benefit of CBL, Derryberry PR is working for the developer, but is not the current PR firm for Pam Ladd. Derryberry PR did produce campaign material for Pam Ladd during her last race in 2009.

I love the truth more than any of these people. If you don't like what I wrote, sue me, it's true. April Eidson.

January 7, 2013 at 10:05 a.m.
LibDem said...

Assuming abandoned business property is a sign of prosperity, we need to build, build, build.

January 7, 2013 at 11:55 a.m.
defriese said...

My question to everyone is: Have you ever drove on Hwy 153 North Bound near the US 27 exits during morning or afternoon rush hour???? I live next to it!!! The over pass is on my property! We don't want a shopping center at that intersection, we don't want apartments, we don't want offices, we don't want anything! The creek floods on our property with every rain fall! Garbage from US 27 washes into our side yard! Due to the excessive traffic already on Hwy 153, it is quicker for us to drive into Red Bank or Soddy Daisy to shop than to navigate through Hixson! And everyone wants more traffic flow in this area!?!?! ["What the project will bring, however, are dozens of new retail stores, a quarter-million square feet of office space and 280 higher-end apartments — not to mention hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in economic growth — all things the Hixson area desperately needs."] NEEDS?!? NEEDS?!? Am I missing something here? Hixson already has everything that Hamilton Place does, so what the hell do we need? BTW am I the only one who has noticed the increase in gang graffiti and crimes in the Hixson area in the last three years???? Oh, I guess we NEED that too!

January 7, 2013 at 2:01 p.m.
aae1049 said...

Derryberry PR ran Pam Ladd's campaign in 2009. Derryberry PR ran Pam Ladd's campaign in 2009. Derryberry PR ran Pam Ladd's campaign in 2009. Derryberry PR ran Pam Ladd's campaign in 2009.

January 7, 2013 at 5:34 p.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

Why do some people have to be obsessed with continuous growth all the time? What is wrong with not growing? Is the measure of the success of a city when it has grown so big it has lost all of its original charm and sense of community? Will we be happy when this entire valley is crammed with people?

January 8, 2013 at 2:32 p.m.
librul said...

It's just a symptom -- capitalism is the disease.

January 8, 2013 at 8:56 p.m.
MountainJoe said...

If land owners want to develop THEIR property, who are any of you to say they can't? Don't want the property developed? Buy it from them at a mutually agreeable price and turn it into a nature preserve.

January 9, 2013 at 12:20 a.m.
LibDem said...

I'm giving my neighbors the opportunity to buy my house for a "mutually agreeable price" before I develop the homeless shelter in my backyard.

January 9, 2013 at 10:03 a.m.
gjuster said...

Libdem - If your property is zoned for it - that is your right

January 9, 2013 at 9:46 p.m.
BRealNow said...

aae1049 (aka April Eidson) needs to get her facts straight before posting on here. To be such a lover of TRUTH, she sure spreads a lot of untruth. She seems to have "Derrberry on the Brain". Jeff Brown was Pam's campaign manager in 2009. Before Ms. Eidson starts berating a hard-working public servant like Pam Ladd, who is arguably the hardest working person on the City Council, she needs to get her FACTS straight and stop incessantly publishing untruths and distortions of it.

January 14, 2013 at 7:30 p.m.
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