Hixson development project sparks dispute

Hixson development project sparks dispute

November 14th, 2012 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Developer Duane Horton presents his plan March 12 for the shopping and residential development on the north end of Highway 153.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

Hixson development

Hixson development

Illustration by Laura McNutt /Times Free Press.

Hixson residents and a representative for a Chattanooga developer sparred Tuesday night over the impact of a proposed $100 million apartment and commercial project off state Highway 153.

Residents worried about heavy traffic, unneeded commercial space, school overcrowding and lowered property values.

But a member of developer Duane Horton's project team argued Chattanooga needs more growth and there are already three apartment complex builders interested in raising the new housing.

"We need smart growth," said Frank Cowden, owner of Regent Properties, at a public meeting attended by about 70 people.

Horton earlier this month filed a revamped proposal to develop the site with up to 280 apartments along with office and retail space. His rezoning request could be heard by Chattanooga planners as early as next month.

Hixson resident Virginia Goss said she'd like to see the 190-acre tract near Boy Scout Road remain wooded and suggested it could become like Greenway Farm.

She also said that when The Fountains retail development opened across Highway 153, traffic about doubled on that end of the artery.

Another resident, Alice White, said she remodeled her home because she liked the wooded view from her backyard.

"We knew something could happen," she said. But she didn't understand why the project, dubbed Chattanooga Village, couldn't start on a smaller scale.

Cowden said the developer already has cut the proposed amount of retail space to 60 acres under C-2 commercial zoning. That's about 90 acres less than originally requested.

When asked about an estimated 600,000 square feet of already vacant commercial space in Hixson, Cowden questioned the figure.

He also added that many potential retail tenants won't consider the existing space.

"It's a new development for tenants that won't go into older stores," Cowden said. "It all increases the tax base."

However, skeptics continue to question the project.

Gregory Vickrey, executive director of the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy, said the developer hasn't submitted detailed plans regarding how groundwater runoff will be handled.

Also, the developer hasn't offered a grading plan, said Vickrey, a member of the "Don't Chop the Hilltop" group.

Horton of Scenic Land Co. originally sought to change the residential zoning last year, but he withdrew the proposal amid earlier questions in 2012.

In the new plan, Horton said there will be a neighborhood park, public gardens, a town square and innovative streetscaping.

But Vickrey labeled the plan's changes as "cosmetic."

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