Chattanooga planning panel OKs pair of big residential projects

A pair of large residential projects on Monday received rezoning approvals from a Chattanooga planning panel.

Riverton, a potential $300 million residential and commercial project in North Chattanooga, won changes to suit a new master plan for the parcel that was bought last year by local developer John "Thunder" Thornton's Thunder Enterprises.

Also, JMB Construction LLC sought rezoning of 121.5 acres from Agriculture A-1 to Residential R-1 at 8234 and 8304 Ooltewah-Georgetown Road and 580 Firetower Road where up to 200 residences are planned, an official said.

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission approved the changes in a virtual meeting following the reclosing of city offices amid the coronavirus pandemic. The changes still need final approval from either the City Council or Hamilton County Commission.

Dane Bradshaw, president of Thunder Enterprises, said changes were sought at the Riverton site to a plan that had been approved earlier for the prior development group.

"We applied for a new PUD (planned unit development)," he said.

Bradshaw had no comment on when work might start at the more than 200-acre tract in Lupton City. Developers of the Riverton mixed-use community have drawn up plans for some 400 homes around a village of neighborhood restaurants, stores and medical offices.

The site has 3,500 feet along the Tennessee River just upstream from the Champions Tennis Club near the former Lupton mill site where Dixie Yarns and later R.L. Stowe once operated a thread mill. The property, which includes the nine-hole Lupton City golf course, is the biggest privately owned undeveloped site on the river within Chattanooga's city limits.

photo Staff file photo / John "Thunder" Thornton says that the site of the Riverton mixed-use development in North Chattanooga is "a spectacular piece of property."

"To have 200 acres so close to downtown Chattanooga along the Tennessee River looking across the river at forests and the beautiful Lookout Mountain in the background makes this a spectacular piece of property," Thornton said last year when his Thunder Enterprises acquired the Riverton development.

Meanwhile, local developer Marshall Berry told the planning panel that his group is in early design stages for the Ooltewah-Georgetown Road tract. He said they're looking to develop a low-density development comparable to those nearby.

But two people expressed concerns about that planned new development.

Marcy O'Rourke, who works nearby at a farm across from the property, said she's concerned about road safety. She said a 40-year-old pedestrian was recently killed nearby. O'Rourke also cited worries about hurting the area's natural beauty and public costs associated with new development.

Panel member Todd Leamon said that even without the rezoning, the developer could build about the same number of units or more.

Concerning traffic, he said officials have been consistent about calling for turn lanes at developments in that area of Ooltewah-Georgetown Road.

Berry, who said he grew up just north of the site, added that he understands concerns expressed about the project.

"We're looking at doing quality," he said. "We want to see a nice development going in there."

Contact Mike Pare at Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

photo Photo by Dave Flessner / A commercial village is planned along Lupton Drive near the entrance to the Riverton development.

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