published Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

St. Elmo building gets go-ahead as neighbors steam about project, process

Neighbors of a proposed multiuse building planned for St. Elmo are not happy.

They told local planners Monday they don’t like the building or the perceived lack of respect they say they feel from local government.

For an hour Monday afternoon, debate went on in the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission meeting about whether a four-story building ought to be allowed to go up on Old Mountain Road in the historic Chattanooga borough.

On the one side, applicant Matt Winget of Elemi Architecture in Chattanooga and Paul Teruya of ALC Holdings spoke for their 1.1-acre project. As proposed, the rezoning would allow one building with commercial space on its first floor and residential space on its top three, in addition to six separate single-family homes, set to face Pennsylvania Avenue.

The developers said they have held neighborhood meetings and tried to oblige residents’ concerns brought forward in February, when the proposal was first put forth, again at March’s planning commission meeting and in the time since.

The site plan has changed a handful of times, which is a reflection of their attempts to meet St. Elmo residents in the middle, proponents said Monday.

Joe Graham, a county and planning board commissioner, praised Teruya and said “I for one would like to applaud you. I think you’ve went above and beyond the call of duty to keep the people informed.”

Allen Field doesn’t see it that way.

He lives on property adjacent to where the proposed building would go up and claims it’s been nothing but miscommunication and frustration since the project was first introduced. Field contends the 4-story building is out of character for the area and contends that an underground creek could cause flooding if the building is erected and nearby streets are too narrow to accommodate more traffic.

Citing his attempts to keep area residents in the loop, Field said , “We can’t possibly keep up with this process” as things continually change and the application itself morphs.

Planning staff director Greg Haynes said at the onset of Monday’s discussion on the St. Elmo property that he has had trouble keeping up with what the application actually is, in light of several last-minute changes.

But planning staff recommended approval from the board, and it was granted, at least in part.

According to planning staffers, the building does fall under the requirement that buildings be no taller than 40 feet. Staff also cited the 2001 St. Elmo Plan, which they said calls for mixed-use residential buildings.

That led Graham to motion for the approval of the mixed-use portion of the construction and a vote from commissioners in favor following to carry the motion.

No action could be taken on the residential zoning portion because a change was entered too near to the meeting. An application for the Pennsylvania Avenue residential side must be re-entered for next month.

The City Council still has the final say-so in it all.

But that was no comfort to Field on Monday.

“We tried,” he said. “I really thought the public was supposed to be heard.”

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480.

about Alex Green...

Alex Green joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 after completing the paper's six-month, general assignment reporter internship. Alex grew up in Dayton, Tenn., which is also where he studied journalism at Bryan College. He graduated from Rhea County High School in 2008. During college, Alex covered the city of Graysville and the town of Spring City for The Herald-News. As editor-in-chief of Bryan College's student news group, Triangle, Alex reported on ...

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