Chattanooga approves new downtown zoning rules over objections

Form-based zoning will take effect across downtown core

Proposed form-based codes for downtown Chattanooga would move building to streets, create walkable and bike-friendly streets and sidewalks with ample green space.

What is form-based zoning?

It's a new way for the city to exercise control over new developments and modifications to old ones. Instead of regulating what type of activities are allowed on a piece of property - industrial, commercial, residential - city planners will now be able to dictate how a property looks.In the city's words, form-based codes prescribe "the physical form of buildings and other elements and addressing the relationship between building facades and the public realm, the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another and the scale and types of streets and blocks."

New zoning rules will soon take effect for Chattanooga's downtown and adjoining urban areas to the north, south and east in the shape of form-based codes.

For 18 months, city planners, public officials and community stakeholders have reviewed and discussed the development tool, which focuses more on urban streetscapes, pedestrians and motorists than it does on residential, industrial or commercial usage of a site.

On Tuesday evening, the City Council voted 8-0 to approve a first reading before final adoption of the codes, which is scheduled for Tuesday.

During the meeting, council members addressed concerns voiced by residents over parking requirements, a recurring topic of public form-based codes meetings.

"Today, there are no parking requirements," said Councilman Chris Anderson. "What this does is create them."

Councilman Yusuf Hakeem urged his colleagues to move forward with the vote, citing a six-month review period that will follow the final passage of the form-based codes next week.

"I do not feel we will come up with a perfect document" Hakeem said. "We have to get off the dime and put something in place."

Hakeem voiced his support of the form-based codes, stating the body does so knowing that the codes will undergo modifications.

Anderson and Councilman Chip Henderson both introduced amendments to increase vehicle parking space requirements.

City planning officials also reviewed the introductions of code amendments intended to area resident more a voice in decision making when it comes to new development within Chattanooga locations that fall under the new code's coverage area.

Those changes call for the rotating nine-member Form-Based Code Committee to include a majority of members that either reside within or operate an office within the downtown code area. The panel includes six design and development professionals.

The codes also call for developers to meet with neighborhood associations before applying for development approval, with some exceptions for smaller projects.

"This is a good example of a civic deliberative process that everyone can live with that can advance our city," said John Bridger, executive director of the Regional Planning Agency.

Here's a June 10 draft copy of the code.

Signal Mountain Road

The City Council voted 8-0 to approve a withdrawal of a zoning request that would allow a 10,500-square-foot convenience store at the intersection of Signal Mountain Road and Glendale Drive.

Applicant Jr. Food Stores seeks to withdraw the application, said Kirby Yost, the company's attorney.

Several members of the Glendale and Signal Mountain communities spoke out against the proposed convenience store. The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Planning Commission recommended denial of the developer's application, saying the proposed use "is not compatible with surrounding residential uses" and concerns over future development onto "sensitive land."

Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or Follow on Twitter @pleach_tfp.