Developer to file revamped Hixson plan

Developer to file revamped Hixson plan

November 9th, 2012 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Developer Duane Horton, left, president of Scenic Land Co., explains details during a public meeting on a major Hixson development off Highway 153, held in the Hixson Community Center at the former Hixson Middle School gymnasium Thursday night.

Photo by Alyson Wright/Times Free Press.

Photo by Laura McNutt/Times Free Press.

WHAT'S NEXT

A community meeting on the proposed Chattanooga Village project will be Tuesday from 6-8 p.m. at the North River Civic Center, 1009 Executive Drive, Suite 102.

In the wake of criticism from environmental and neighborhood groups, a Chattanooga developer today was expected to file a revamped plan for a $100 million Hixson apartment and commercial project.

"We've taken a strategic approach to address the concerns, meet zoning requirements and provide an outstanding project," said Duane Horton of Scenic Land Co.

Horton said he hopes the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission can hear the revised proposal in December for his project dubbed "Chattanooga Village."

But one critic of the developer's plan called the changes "cosmetic."

"It doesn't make it more acceptable," said Gregory Vickrey, executive director of the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy and a leader with the Don't Chop the Hilltop group.

Horton late last year proposed building 240 to 280 apartment units and 763,000 square feet of commercial space on a 190-acre site near state Highway 153 and U.S. Highway 27. He withdrew a rezoning request earlier this year amid questions.

However, Horton said Thursday that his company has made changes which address issues such as stormwater and flooding concerns, traffic, and how much space will be devoted to retail stores.

He said the company, in some instances, is taking steps above and beyond federal, state and local requirements. For example, Horton said a significant amount of land will be used for water retention and green spaces at the site.

"Chattanooga Village will have the largest privately funded bio-retention features in the region," Horton said. "We've got processes in place which will slow and filter water before it ever reaches our retention ponds."

Concerning traffic, he said there will be two access points to the development, both off of Highway 153. Horton said there will be no access to the project from Boy Scout Road.

In addition, he said, there will be limited curb cuts from Highway 153 to the project.

Horton said while some people complain about peeling off the hilltop, the top of Highway 153 and the majority of the site still will be about 200 feet above Boy Scout Road.

He added the plan calls for slopes and landscape buffers that are 100-feet wide.

"This is over three times the amount of space required by the city of Chattanooga" and is in line with the Hixson/North River Community Plan, the developer said.

Horton said the multi-family and small office part of the project will be located in areas with steeper slopes. Larger buildings will be within areas of lesser slopes, he said.

Additionally, Horton said a neighborhood park is planned along with a playground owned by the city. There, he said, will be a place that can serve as a trail access point to the North Chickamauga Creek Greenway.

"The public will enjoy our public gardens, town square, village green, innovative streetscaping and well as outdoor fireplaces," Horton said.

Horton reiterated that 60 acres will be developed under C-2 commercial zoning. That's 90 acres less than what was originally requested, he said, and will cut down on the amount of retail space.

But Hixson resident Linden Stricker said he wants to see more details.

"He hasn't presented specifics," he said. "He didn't give details."

Stricker said that while the developer says he won't put access to Boy Scout Road, that doesn't mean it couldn't happen in the future.

"Unless they put up ... like the Wall of China, I don't know how they could guarantee it," Stricker said.

Vickrey said he's concerned that steps to contain water runoff are just conceptual in nature.

"We've seen developments like this fail to meet standards," he said.

Horton, meanwhile, said Chattanooga Village will be Hixson's first "destination district," containing "Main Street elements" such as a town square and public gardens attracting small business and retail concepts not now in the area.

He said the development will be "more pedestrian friendly, open air and village-like."

Horton added that a mall never has been included in the company's plan.

If approved by planners and the City Council, it would likely be 2015 before the project's first phase, consisting mostly of the apartments, is constructed, he said.