Chattanooga Village, critics spar ahead of vote

Chattanooga Village, critics spar ahead of vote

January 18th, 2013 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Developer Duane Horton, center, answers a question during a public meeting regarding the Chattanooga Village project held in the Chattanooga City Council meeting.

Photo by Alyson Wright /Times Free Press.

Chattanooga Village

Chattanooga Village

The developer of the $100 million Chattanooga Village proposal met with critics for nearly two hours Thursday as the sides sought to hammer out differences - with mixed results.

With a planned City Council vote on the project Tuesday, the sides agreed to disagree on some conditions on the huge apartment and commercial project proposed for Hixson.

On others, developer Duane Horton of Scenic Land Co. was to tweak the conditions and present them in writing for review by some nearby neighborhood residents and the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy, who have questioned the project.

Greg Haynes of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency said the document will help show staff and the council where the sides agree or don't.

"We'll see who blinks first," he said.

Horton said after the meeting, the second in two weeks with critics, that it's always positive to try to sit down and work though a solution.

According to Scenic Land, 30 changes have been made to the plan after 18 public meetings.

"We're satisfied with the plan we have," Horton said. "We've offered a lot of conditions to protect the property."

Gregory Vickrey, the Conservancy's executive director, said there are conditions on which Scenic Land is "pushing for the minimums" and the general attitude of the developer is dismissive.

He also worried the development plan could worsen flooding in the area caused by heavy rains.

"It will categorically be worse," Vickrey said.

The project, slated for a vacant 190-acre tract near state Highway 153 and Boy Scout Road, calls for the construction of up to 280 apartments. In addition, plans are to build 500,000 square feet of retail space and 250,000 square feet of offices. The project would be one of the biggest mixed use developments ever in Hamilton County.

The tract is currently zone residential, and Scenic Land want to rezone the site for the project.

Joe Conner, an attorney for the Conservancy, and Horton disagreed about the issue of phasing the project so that one part would be complete before moving onto another.

"We'd like to avoid what occurred across the street," Conner said, citing The Fountains commercial project in which a lot of land was cleared but only two stores, Academy Sports + Outdoors and Kohl's, have been constructed.

Conner added that "I don't think you'll ever get a corporate campus on that site."

Horton said The Fountains required mass grading, but his project doesn't plan to do that.

He said he'd like the Chattanooga Village to develop in the manner the city has always permitted, and phasing seems burdensome.

"This is one of the [conditions] on which we're furthest apart," Horton said.

But there was some agreement on the idea of the issuance of a performance bond to assure that certain conditions are upheld by the developer.

Horton said he thinks an insurance policy is a better solution, and he'd be willing to up the amount from $1 million to $2 million.

Conner said a performance bond is an insurance policy, but the Conservancy wants to make sure it's a viable policy.

On the issue of offering a topographical map for the project, Horton attorney Sam Elliott said it's too early to provide such a document. Horton said he would submit a plan showing how many acres on the site will be left undisturbed, including the top of the hill.

But, Conner said, a site plan of the development isn't a topographical map.

"We need to see what you produce," he said. "The City Council will have to make a decision."

There was also discussion about potential noise from the commercial part of the development and how much screening there would be of trash containers.

Ellie Wallis, who lives near the proposed development, said noise from trucks and trash containers can be heard from The Fountains, for example.

"This is an important thing," she said.

Elliott suggested that proposed language regarding this condition be given to Scenic Land and "we'll see what we can do."

Wallis also mentioned putting "green roofs" with vegetation on them on buildings that can be seen by neighbors.

But Horton balked, saying "that's not a little item," adding he'd have to talk to one of his project team experts.