Zoning hearing delayed for Hixson development twice the size of Northgate Mall

Zoning hearing delayed for Hixson development twice the size of Northgate Mall

October 11th, 2011 by Carey O'Neil in Business Around the Region

Scenic Land Co. wants to rezone 190 acres for apartments, stores and offices on this property adjacent to state Highway 153 and Boy Scout Road.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

POLL: Should the massive Hixson development on Highway 153 be approved?

Chattanooga Village

Document: Chattanooga Village Site Plan

Chattanooga Village Site Plan

TIMELINE

1991 - Crown American Corp. is denied approval for a shopping center on the scale of Hamilton Place Mall

2002 - Developer Tom DuPre proposes a smaller shopping center but is deferred indefinitely

2007 - Hixson Methodist Church options the land for community-oriented development but decides to pass on the project

A developer says money sits ready to be poured into a Hixson residential and commercial development that would be more than twice the size of Northgate Mall.

But traffic, stormwater and residents' concerns led planners Monday to delay a rezoning needed for the project until December.

"There's some concerns out there," Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission Member Adam Veron. "It's going to be a drastic project."

As proposed, the development would include a 280-apartment complex and a 150-acre commercial center for retail outlets and office space. The proposed center would sit less than two miles north of Northgate Mall.

The land would require massive reworking before any construction can start. The undeveloped area is steep and hilly, and would need to be leveled for the center.

Duane Horton, president of Scenic Land Company, said he has researched the massive land moving requirements and is ready to deal with them. He hopes to start the project towards the beginning of next year, and expects to complete it in phases starting with an apartment complex on the northernmost parcel of land.

Pending the planning agency's approval, Horton said he has funding lined up from investors and financial institutions, letters of intent from two apartment companies and a joint venture agreement with a large regional retailer to develop the land.

"It's part of the perimeter of Chattanooga," he said. "This is an area that business would like to come into."

The development would have three entrances along Highway 153, and Horton told the agency he is ready to work with the county on any traffic problems.

Plans are to leave a 100-foot buffer zone, 50 feet of which would remain undisturbed natural growth, between the development and nearby communities.

But some community members weren't sure the project would go as smoothly as Horton hopes.

"I certainly would love to see the area grow, I just want it done right," said Kris Simmons, who lives in a community adjacent to the proposed development site. "If 18-wheelers come in at every hour of the night, that's going to affect our community."

Simmons and other nearby residents didn't oppose the project, but raised concerns about the potential traffic increases, light and noise pollution and flooding caused by the massive leveling project.

Merritt Potter, whose Highway 153 home would touch the development on two sides, purchased his house four years ago. He spent about two years fixing it up, then moved in. He said he sometimes hikes in the now wooded area the development would go, but is unopposed to the construction.

"I'm open-minded about it," he said. "I need to see how it impacts me."

Horton said he and landowners Jack and Carolyn Lonas, who were unavailable due to family medical problems but live on the proposed site, will make sure the project is well within county regulations and do what they can to mitigate any negative effects.

Those negative effects ended proposed projects on the site in the past. In 2002, concerns about increased traffic on Boy Scout Road contributed to a similar development's death. The site was looked at for development at least three times in the past 20 years, in 1991 by Crown American Crop. for a similar shopping center and in 2007 by Hixson Methodist Church for community-oriented development.

Despite past failures, several at the meeting agreed the site is great for business. With a nearby Walmart and Target shopping centers, most of the property fronting on Highway 153 is zoned for commercial development. Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said such developments are good for the Chattanooga area.

"Chattanooga's growing. It should come as no surprise we have developers lining up to go build there," he said. "It eventually will be done in some form."

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