• Developer Bassam Issa's proposal to replace the tennis courts and pools at the YMCA on Shallowford Road with retail and office spaces was recommended for approval by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission Monday. The Chattanooga City Council will also have to vote to approve the project before it can go forward.
• The commission voted to defer a proposal to build a multifamily complex on now-vacant industrial land at 950 Riverside Drive for 30 days during Monday's meeting to the developer a chance to meet with Lincoln Park residents.
A local developer who hopes to build a 240-unit apartment complex and shopping center on East Brainerd Road met heavy opposition from neighbors at Monday's Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission meeting and will have to delay his plans for at least 30 days.
Developer Bassam Issa wants to build both an apartment complex and several retail buildings on about 50 acres of now-vacant land at 9700 East Brainerd Road. The commission voted to defer a decision on the case during Monday's meeting so Issa could spend more time meeting with neighbors, who are vehemently opposed to the development.
The Regional Planning Agency staff recommended that the commission vote to approve the plan because the development integrated open green space, landscaping, pedestrian access and parking lots that do not dominate the site. The staff put 15 conditions on the development that ranged from limiting the largest commercial building to 40,000 square feet to limiting the number of times the development opens to East Brainerd Road.
The planning staff also noted that Issa was willing to follow all the conditions and that the development fits with the comprehensive plan for the neighborhood.
But about 40 neighbors attended Monday's meeting to protest the project, citing concerns about heavy traffic, property values and neighborhood safety. Neighbors argued that East Brainerd Road is already overloaded and that the development will make the traffic worse.
"To approve this project would be an irresponsible and insensitive decision for many of these folks out there," said neighbor Matt West.
Issa, however, argued that the development would help the neighborhood. The apartment complex would include only two-story buildings, as well as a clubhouse and pool. The apartments would also be market-rate and high-quality, Issa said.
"I'm trying to do a better development," Issa said.
Members of the planning commission were torn over the development. Member Joe Graham said he thought the apartments and retail would not be the best use of the land at that intersection.
"Especially with the Volkswagen announcement today, we have to make sure we build right," he said.
But commission member Yusuf Hakeem said he thought the project was much better than what could be built on the site, which is already partially zoned for commercial.
"Mr. Issa can already put buildings or structures there that may not have the kind of aesthetics that you would like to see there," he told the crowd. "But when he has gone the extra mile to try to accommodate the interest and concerns of the community and there appears to be no movement at all from the community, my conclusion is you like it like it is."
The commission voted against denying the project all together, and instead deferred for 30 days. The commission asked Issa to meet with the neighborhood again.
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