Rezoning for future IHOP worries East Brainerd residents

Rezoning for future IHOP worries East Brainerd residents

August 19th, 2011 by Carey O'Neil in News

The IHOP logo.

The IHOP logo.

It's not that East Brainerd area residents don't like pancakes. They're just worried the community's love of the morning meal will be too much to handle.

About 60 locals debated Thursday whether a block across from the Target on Gunbarrel Road should be rezoned to allow the construction of an iHop.

The move -- which would change the zoning from office to commercial -- has raised concerns about traffic and future rezoning.

But proponents say it's reasonable, considering the similar businesses directly across the street. The block is sandwiched between commercially zoned blocks in an area residents say sees heavy traffic.

At the meeting, Chattanooga City Councilman Jack Benson said that, regardless of whether iHop would generate more traffic, rezoning the area would set off a domino effect. He said other developers would apply for commercial rezoning, infringing on the residential area and possibly lowering property values.

Benson held the meeting for the public to discuss the zoning.

"It would create a cancer spot that would be precedent-setting all down East Brainerd Road," Benson said. "It would spread. It would be malignant."

But property owner Bassam Issa wasn't convinced. He said not rezoning could put future developers in an awkward position.

"It's forcing somebody in the middle of a commercial zone to not be commercial," he said. "I'm not going to start a ripple effect."

Development supporters argued the iHop could have immediate, positive repercussions for Chattanooga.

"It's a city. Let it be a city. Let it grow," said Paula Baxter, a Farris Drive resident who has lived behind the proposed IHOP site for nine years. "It's going to bring in jobs."

The project would create between 75 and 100 construction jobs immediately, and about 75 permanent jobs when the restaurant opens.

But some residents fear those jobs will just mean more traffic in an already congested area.

"Our road is a complete mess, and you're not going to tell me we won't get traffic 24/7 on Igou Gap Road," said Susan Nicholas, who lives on Igou Gap. "You've got people who are getting drunk at night and want to go eat."

Several other residents also worried about increased traffic, but project developer David Shanahan said traffic pattern studies showed congestion would not increase. Cars turning onto and off the road would increase by less than one per minute, he said.

"The impact here is not going to be traffic," he said. "A lot of these complaints are very legitimate, but a lot of the complaints don't have anything to do with the iHop."

Without putting some business in that property, the complaints will not be addressed as quickly as they could be, Shanahan said.

"If you don't generate revenue, you don't generate taxes," he said. "You can't fix the problem."