Planners support revised blueprint for mall-area Palms project

photo The Palms condominium project stalled five years ago with few of the planned 89 units complete.

The Palms on Concord, a Hamilton Place-area development that weathered one foreclosure, is now being pitched as 155 apartments rather than 89 condominiums.

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission voted Monday to recommend that the City Council override its land-use plan and rezone the property for higher density development.

The City Council in 2005 approved the previously planned condo community at 7.8 dwelling units per acre. The new plan's density would be 13.6 units per acre. Planning agency staff recommended that the commission deny the project's changes.

In spite of that recommendation, commissioners supported the rezoning almost unanimously -- save the vote of City Councilman Jack Benson, who said he couldn't vote to change the area's land-use plan out of principle.

"This is the ideal place for what you propose," Benson said. "This right on the interstate and this is on the very end of our land-use plan. I could talk all day for this, but I can't vote for it."

One of the project's proponents, Mike Price, of MAP Engineering, described the property as one formerly "in distress."

At least one commissioner said she could support a plan with fewer units.

"You might be able to support it, but you won't be able to make any money on it," Price said.

In February 2009, Northwest Georgia Bank foreclosed on the previous owner, Michael A. Dowlen, and two companies he operated: Dowlen Construction LLC and Green Oaks LLC.

Many of the units sat unfinished until Emerson Russell, a local developer, bought the property in 2010. County records show that The Palms on Concord LLC paid $2.3 million in June 2010 for 1515 N. Concord Road.

Russell said he bought the units and attempted to market them as condos, to no avail.

Price said the new apartment development would include several buildings, each with nine units, including six garages.

"This is not your typical apartment development," he said. "It's in keeping with the townhouse-type look that was previously considered."

The planning commission voted against a plan to increase density in another East Brainerd neighborhood. Developer Don Walker sought to build six townhomes on less than an acre on Fuller Road.

"There's a big demand for townhomes of this nature in the county for singles," Walker said.

Planning staff estimated the density would be about 9.8 units per acre. Before casting his vote against the project, Commissioner Don Moon asked Walker to bring back another plan with less density.

Walker said he would bring the agency a new proposal in October with fewer units.

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