As Hillocks Farm developer Duane Horton's rezoning request passed on first reading Feb. 11, District 1 Chattanooga City Councilman Chip Henderson said he would like to see the community review committee he and fellow Councilmen Jerry Mitchell and Ken Smith set up continue to assist with future developments.
The Hixson Community Review Committee consists of area business and community leaders as well as representatives from neighborhoods surrounding the development and from local organizations such as the Friends of Hixson and North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy.
The group held six meetings with the developer and city representatives to help iron out a plan for a development that better fit in with the surrounding community. Many neighboring residents had concerns about the original plans proposed by Horton for the 190-acre development at Highway 153 and Boy Scout Road. Originally referred to as "Chattanooga Village," the revised project has been dubbed "Hillocks Farm."
Committee members such as Jerry Jones, who was once vocally opposed to the project, helped Horton establish 39 conditions relating to issues such as stormwater concerns and installing a buffer zone around the development, which ultimately satisfied the opposition.
"We spent hours battling out these conditions," Jones said, speaking in support of the development, before the Feb. 11 vote.
"I appreciate you taking the time to redo the whole site for the neighborhood," Councilman Russell Gilbert told Horton, who has revised his plans five times and participated in 20 community meetings including the six with the Hixson Community Review Committee.
Only one resident spoke in opposition to the development Feb. 11, referring to the intersection at Highway 153 and Dayton Boulevard as "the elephant in the room."
"I think it's irresponsible for the City Council to approve this without putting in any provisions about the intersection," the unnamed resident said.
Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency staff had cited concerns about the same intersection when recommending to the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Planning Commission that it deny Horton's rezoning request. The Planning Commission approved the request by 12-3 vote anyway, before the request proceeded to the City Council Feb. 11. Planning commissioners cited the project's potential for economic development in the area and the developer's efforts in working with the community. It was also noted that property tax revenue from the project could be used to fund infrastructure improvement.
"Even without this development, it's a problem area," Smith said at the Feb. 11 city council meeting, adding that conversations about fixing the intersection at Dayton Boulevard and Highway 153 have already begun, and that improvements to the intersection could not be tied to the developer's rezoning request as a condition.
"It has not been overlooked," he added in regards to the problem intersection.
Henderson commented that the atmosphere during the Feb. 11 vote was far different than during the vote a year ago when Horton's original rezoning request was denied.
"I hope we can keep this committee together to look at future developments," he said.
Horton said he is excited about the vote of approval.
"After many months of hard work, the rezoning will allow us to move forward with the implementation of our plan that we have developed based on RPA standards and community input from Hixson residents," he said. "We believe that our transparency throughout the process, as well as the inclusion of RPA and community requests, will make Hillocks Farm a significant, lasting success in Hixson."