On the hot seat: Chattanooga Village developer peppered with questions

On the hot seat: Chattanooga Village developer peppered with questions

December 12th, 2012 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Chattanooga Village developer Duane Horton, right, discusses plans for the project at a public meeting Tuesday night at the Hixson Community Center.

Photo by Allison Love /Times Free Press.

What's next?

• Chattanooga City Council Chair Pam Ladd has called a special meeting to consider the Chattanooga Village plans from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. next Monday at the Chattanooga City Council Chambers, 1000 Lindsay Street. Developers, planners and other council members are expected to attend the public hearing.

"We have heard a lot of information about this project and a lot of misinformation," Ladd said. "I want to provide an opportunity for citizens to discuss this project in a civil and orderly manner."

• The City Council could consider and vote on the rezoning for the project as early as Jan. 8.

Hixson residents on Tuesday night peppered a developer with questions about what would be one of largest mixed-use projects ever built in the Chattanooga area.

Queries ranged from construction to sidewalks to potential stormwater runoff problems at the proposed 190-acre, $100 million Chattanooga Village project off state Highway 153 near Boy Scout Road.

"How can you be so sure [about stormwater runoff] if you've not even had the study done yet?" asked nearby resident Andrea Rice at a public meeting.

Duane Horton, of Scenic Land Co., which wants to put up the massive apartment and commercial development, said the company will meet standards higher than those now required by the city when it comes to runoff.

"If it's a black tie event, we're showing up with a black tie," said Horton at the meeting attended by 40 to 50 people at the Hixson Community Center.

Horton, aiming for City Council approval of the project as early as next month, said he wants to know the concerns of of those who live near the project.

Roland Aberg of the land planning firm Hart Howerton, hired by Horton, said there won't be a lot of grading of the top of the site's hilltop, a concern of some nearby residents.

"The development sits on the top of the ridge," he said.

In response to another question about sidewalks on the site, Aberg said the will be connectivity between the various parts of the project via "pathways." He said plans include both bike and pedestrian links as well as roads.

Horton said he plans to create a homeowner-like association for the apartment, retail and office portions of the project to address and meet any problems which may arise after the project is built.

Rick Hill, a real estate consultant brought on by Horton, said the apartments will be built before the space is leased up. But shopping center financing now requires pre-leasing of up to 65 percent, he said.

Also, Hill said, the offices won't be built on speculation but for tenant needs instead.

However, some still expressed skepticism at the approval process after the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission approved Chattanooga Village on Monday even when its staff recommended a 30-day deferral.

Resident Jerry Jones said that "you'll never convince us it wasn't a fixed, fraudulent deal."

Matt Barnett, who bought a house in the area in March, said he isn't for the project.

"One of the reasons [I bought] was privacy," he said.

Hixson resident Mary Heard said she has runoff worries.

"I've got a lot of concerns about the impact on the environment," she said.

The project calls for raising up to 280 apartments, 500,000 square feet of retail space and 250,000 square feet of offices.

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency staff included a list of 25 conditions to the proposal to build 1.1 million square feet of space.

Horton late last year proposed building up to 280 apartments and 763,000 square feet of commercial space. But he withdrew a rezoning request earlier this year amid questions.

Last month, he revised the proposal, including sharply curtailing retail space and offering more offices.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.