Chattanooga Village plan for Hixson questioned

Chattanooga Village plan for Hixson questioned

December 18th, 2012 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Developer Duane Horton, center, answers a question from a list compiled by the audience while Rick Hill, a real estate consultant, looks on during a public meeting regarding the Chattanooga Village project held in the Chattanooga City Council meeting room Monday night. The meeting, hosted by City Councilwoman Pam Ladd, included an in-depth presentation of the project proposal and also allowed residents to ask questions of the developer and others involved in the project.

Photo by Alyson Wright/Times Free Press.

BY THE NUMBERS

500,000: Square feet of retail space in Chattanooga Village

250,000: Square feet of offices

280: Apartments in the project

Source: Scenic Land Co.

POLL: Do you support the Hixson development project?

A plan for a 190-acre Hixson development was termed "speculative rezoning" by one critic Monday night, but the developer said the project is slated to spur 2,000 jobs and generate another $2 million in annual taxes.

More than 75 people turned out to hear more details on the $100 million Chattanooga Village proposal that would add new apartments and commercial space off state Highway 153.

Joe Conner, an attorney for the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy, said he wasn't satisfied with answers given in the nearly two-hour session and questioned the rezoning effort.

He said the action sought by developer Duane Horton and his Scenic Land Co. on the tract near Boy Scout Road is rezoning "on a promise."

"It's rezoning and they will come," Conner said, citing the similar line from the movie "Field of Dreams."

Conner also said the Tennessee Department of Transportation has not approved the project's traffic plan as was earlier asserted.

Horton, meanwhile, said at the meeting that area property values will rise because of the development, if it receives City Council approval Jan. 8.

"I'd hope and expect a development like this will help raise property values," he said. "I don't understand where there would be a decrease in property values."

Horton also said the proposed 280 apartments to be erected would demand the highest rents in Hixson, and the units could one day be turned into condominiums if market conditions change.

"That's the quality level we want to build this to," he said.

Also, there was discussion of changes made to Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency conditions at the Planning Commission meeting last week, including permitting an increase in building sizes.

Rick Hill, a consultant for Horton, said the plan needed more flexibility so it can last for a long time.

He said the plan "is not a reaction to today or any immediate market demand." But, Hill said, the plan doesn't anticipate so-called big-box stores.

John Bridger, who heads the Regional Planning Agency, said the original 25 conditions offered by the planners will go to the City Council along with modifications.

"They'll make the final decision," he said.

Ellie Wallis, who lives near the proposed development, said she's glad some answers were given at the meeting, but she thought the strict question-and-answer format with no permitted follow-ups was restrictive.

She said she's hopeful the City Council will defer action on the proposal next month.

Gregory Vickrey, the Conservancy's executive director, said opponents to Horton's plan requested 15 minutes to address the group, as the developer and his group received.

"We'll continue to push for good information," he said, calling the meeting "a dog and pony show" that included misstatements and untruths.

City Councilwoman Pam Ladd, who called the meeting, said the panel can vote to defer action.

"If I still need additional information...I'll support deferral," she said.