With more than 355 signatures on an online petition to deny the rezoning of Hixson property slated for the Chattanooga Village development, about 200 people packed into a public meeting last week to discuss the project.
"This must be a very important issue to you," Chattanooga City Councilwoman Pam Ladd told the audience, referring to the proposed rezoning of a large tract at the intersection of Boy Scout Road and State Route 153.
The meeting was held for members of the Regional Planning Commission to gather public input before deciding on its recommendation for the rezoning of the property to the City Council. Scenic Land Co., the project's developers, will go before the RPA Monday, April 9 at 4 p.m.
Under its current R1 zoning, the land can be developed as residential property, said Duane Horton of Scenic Land Co. He discussed issues some area residents and organizations have had with its rezoning, such as concerns about excessive traffic, disturbing wildlife, polluting North Chickamauga Creek, flooding, increased crime and destruction of the view the 190-acre hill provides.
Horton said the property will eventually be developed, and the proposed large-scale Chattanooga Village development is preferable to piecemealing together smaller tracts with multiple curb cuts.
"It allows us not only to have greater adherence to regulations; with a larger site we can do more efficient planning," said Horton, who was approached by landowner and current property resident Jack Lonas three years ago to develop the site.
In the past, he said rezoning requests for the property had been denied due to traffic concerns.
Under his plan, the property would be developed in phases, the first being 280 apartments in 15 buildings, which he said are ready to be built immediately should the rezoning be approved.
Additional phases would include 500,000 square feet of retail space in a dozen buildings, as well as 250,000 square feet of office space.
"There hasn't been a place [in Hixson] for a large [business] campus relocation," he said.
The developers have offered to double the 50-foot buffer zone required by city ordinance between the development and existing houses, said Horton.
The Stoneridge neighborhood is one of the two entrances to the development off SR-153, and residents complained of the potential extra traffic, increase in crime and negative effects on their property values.
One resident asked if the housing would be Section-8 (public housing choice voucher program).
"It's all private investment," said Horton of the proposed apartments. "It's not HUD [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development]."
A light at the intersection of Stoneridge Drive and SR-153 has been proposed to help alleviate traffic problems, said Horton.
A traffic study recently conducted by Volkert on the SR-153/Dayton Boulevard interchange in February determined northbound traffic on SR-153 and westbound traffic turning left from Boy Scout Road is already at 90 percent capacity. The report recommends adding a northbound and southbound lane along SR-153 to reduce delay and improve the volume to capacity ratio by 20 percent to reach an acceptable level.
"The traffic study makes the assumption 153 will be widened to seven lanes, but the project doesn't warrant enough money to do that," said Jerry Jones, former right of way engineer for Tennessee Department of Transportation. "I don't know how you can do it right and stay within the economic confines."
If the road remains four lanes, it is projected that traffic at the intersection will be 20 percent over capacity.
The Volkert study also recommends for future study a northbound flyover ramp to Dayton Boulevard. Currently, left turns off SR-153 onto southbound Dayton Boulevard are prohibited, and drivers must use residential streets such as Gadd or Grubb/Dowlen roads or make a U-turn north of the interchange to reach Dayton Boulevard from SR-153.
Jones said the flyover ramp would cost at least $1 million.
One resident complained the proposed grocery store is unnecessary with nine boarded-up supermarkets in sight, and that the area does not need another mall when empty spaces remain at Northgate Mall nearby.
Horton said they plan to bring in retailers not currently in the Hixson community, but said he is unable to name specific retailers at this time. He remarked that the Academy Sports that recently opened across SR-153 from the proposed development is the fifth-best-performing Academy Sports in the nation.
Horton said the 15-acre detention area in the proposed plan has been approved by the city engineer. Stormwater runs first through the sandy soil of bioswells to filter out trash and debris before it reaches the detention ponds, he said.
"Everything has to be treated on-site before it runs off," said Horton. "From a bioswell standpoint, these will be the largest in Chattanooga."
He also stated no flooding issues would be caused by the project for residents downstream.
If the RPA reaches its decision April 9, it will make its recommendation to the City Council Tuesday, May 8 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.
Horton said the first phase could begin early summer 2013 should the rezoning go through.
Email Emily Crisman at email@example.com