Panel would flatten Brainerd IHOP plan

Panel would flatten Brainerd IHOP plan

November 15th, 2011 by Carey O'Neil in Business Around the Region

The IHOP logo.

POLL: Should zoning be changed to allow an ihop to be built on Gunbarrel road?

IHOP in East Brainerd

Photo by Laura McNutt/Times Free Press.

Not a single city planner wants pancakes cooked on the west side of Gunbarrel road.

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency voted unanimously against a zoning change that would allow an Ihop to be built across from the Target shopping plaza.

"[An Ihop] is so obviously wrong," said Jack Benson, city councilman and planning agency member. "It's right in the heart of our land use plan. If we had approved that, it would have set the precedent so that we would have to approve commercial [projects] all the way down to East Brainerd Road."

But Patrick Neuhoff, president of Neuhoff Taylor Architects which helped design the Ihop project, said the agency already approved eight similar rezonings in the area without any thought of negative domino effects.

Neuhoff said the project already has approval from those living behind the property, and its location across the street from restaurants such as Chick-fil-A and Panara makes for a unique set a circumstances inapplicable to future projects.

"The only objection that was viable was it didn't fit in the plan," he said. "It's really not a solid issue. The plan is a guide; it's not a Bible."

Because agency members already had spoken out against the project, Neuhoff said he expected them to turn down the proposal.

"You ask a surgeon how to fix something -- they're going to cut," he said. "You ask planners to look -- they're going to go to the plan."

Bassam Issa, the property's developer, said he took the agency's unanimous denial and lack of any questions on the proposal as a sign the group wants to pass the decision up the ladder to the Chattanooga City Council, whose members will have the final say on the issue in December.

Issa and Neuhoff plan to present their case to the council. They hope the council will see the arguments they've already made and the potential tax revenue increase as reason enough to approve the project.

But Benson doesn't expect the council will allow a restaurant in the office-zoned area near Erlanger East.

"I don't foresee that anyone will vote for it," Benson said. "It wouldn't bring in tax monies any better and not as good as an office. A medical office would bring in better salaries as well as better taxes."

Contact Carey O'Neil at coneil@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6525.