The developer of a 53-acre property on Ooltewah-Ringgold Road is seeking a special permit to make another change to the final layout of the site at the corner of East Brainerd Road.
If approved by the Hamilton County Commission, developer Bassam Issa would scrap his plans to bring 72 single-family homes to the back half of the property and use the space for a senior housing community, instead. The rest of the property is slated for a high-end grocer, as well as a mix of restaurants, retail and service providers.
The three-building senior community would be owned and operated by Morning Pointe Senior Living, which already manages more than 30 similar facilities throughout the Southeast.
Planners with the Chattanooga-based senior health care services company had originally intended to place the buildings on about 7 acres of land on the commercial portion of the property, said MAP Engineers owner Mike Price, who works with both Issa and Morning Pointe. After reviewing the designs, however, they concluded that the small acreage forced the buildings to be too close together, giving the campus an urban look they believed wouldn't fit the area's rural feel.
"We realized it wasn't something we would be proud of long term," Morning Pointe President Greg Vital told residents at a community meeting to discuss the proposal Nov. 7.
The new location would give Morning Pointe 23 acres on which to spread its buildings, enabling developers to add walking trails and more landscaping, planners said. Vital said the community would mirror others Morning Pointe has done in the area, specifically citing Greenbriar Cove and Morning Pointe of Chattanooga at Shallowford as examples.
The Ooltewah-Ringgold Road property is currently zoned C2, for its primary use: central commercial, but the only zoning that allows assisted living facilities is R3, which is intended for multiple-family residential homes.
Since developers have indicated they will not be seeking to rezone the property, they will need to obtain a special permit from the county to move forward with the project, said John Bridger, executive director of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency.
Some residents said they felt the request indicated a broken promise from Issa.
In 2014, the local developer altered his plans to build a 240-apartment complex and shopping center on the site at the community's request, opting instead for a full commercial center. Last year, after a delay in development, Issa got the green light to insert a 72-home subdivision behind a reduced commercial footprint to help draw retailers to the site.
While discussing that proposed change last September, Issa told community members that he was open to restricting major changes on the property in response to residents' calls for assurances that the layout would not be altered again during development.
"Obviously, he's gone back on his word on that," said Windstone resident Bill Reesor, adding that he'd spoken with other property owners who felt the same way. "If we've had a developer say 'I will not ask for another zoning change' and has, is that really someone who's concerned about what our rural neighborhood will look like?"
Issa said he wasn't "flip-flopping," noting that all of the changes made so far have stayed within the parameters of the agreed-upon restrictions.
"For example, we can never do apartments on any of it — front, back, anything else — because it says so in the restriction: no apartments," Issa said, adding, "I've never done anything behind your backs."
In response to concerns about traffic, planners said the senior living community would have a much lower impact on the area's traffic than what would have been generated by 72 single-family homes. The senior community is planned to have 260 units between its three buildings.
Price said the development would still include previously discussed improvements on East Brainerd Road, such as a turning lane into the property, and Issa said plans for the commercial section will stay the same.
The matter is expected to be brought before the Planning Commission in January before moving to the County Commission for ultimate approval. If approved, Vital estimated the senior living community's construction would take 24-36 months.
Email Myron Madden at firstname.lastname@example.org.