Chattanooga agrees to pay $425,000 in zoning lawsuit

Staff photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press / The city of Chattanooga has settled with local developer James Pratt over a 2018 zoning lawsuit over the rezoning of property off Reads Lake Road, shown here on Feb. 3, 2015, and will pay $425,000.

The city of Chattanooga has settled with developer James Pratt over a 2018 zoning lawsuit and will pay $425,000.

The settlement was announced at the end of Tuesday's Chattanooga City Council meeting, although there was no discussion about the matter. Three years ago, Pratt Land & Development filed suit against the council over the rezoning of property off Reads Lake Road, which the developer claimed had rendered the site worthless.

The suit claimed the zoning was illegal and the defendants "grossly exceeded their authority" and violated Pratt's rights under the Tennessee and U.S. constitutions.

"There is not a shred of legitimate city interest or public benefit to this rezoning," said the suit filed in Hamilton County Circuit Court. "It is the epitome of backroom politics and the ugliest side of a failed democratic process."

(READ MORE: Pratt Land & Development sues Chattanooga City Council, Chip Henderson over rezoning of property)

In addition to the $425,000 and the lawsuit being dropped, 1.55 acres of the Pratt property will be transferred to the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy, said city attorney Emily O'Donnell.

The property in 2017 was the subject of controversy when nearby residents opposed plans by the developer to put multifamily housing on the site.

Pratt had earlier called a request by the city to put conditions on his commercial property "improper, illegal and just not right."

The property is a 2.6-acre tract that included a clubhouse on the former Quarry golf course. It was rezoned C-2 in 2002, enabling the site to hold multifamily housing.

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People who lived in the area had said at the time that when the property was rezoned from C-1 to C-2 in 2002, there wasn't proper notice given to the community.

In 2018, Pratt withdrew a plan to put apartments, townhomes and single-family homes on more than 30 acres at the 1001 Reads Lake Road site.

The suit, filed by Benjamin T. Reese - then of Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan - said Pratt spent more than $100,000 on engineering, soil testing, surveying and legal issues related to multifamily housing.

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The suit went on to say that Councilman Chip Henderson introduced a resolution directing the city attorney's office to file a zoning application on behalf of the council requesting conditions on the property. The resolution later passed that panel in October 2018.

The suit said the conditions allow only uses permitted under a former, abolished C-1 Highway Commercial Zone classification.

"The council did not seek to condition any other C-2 zoned property in the entire city," the suit said. "The defendants targeted Pratt and this approximately 2.6-acre parcel to prevent Pratt from developing multifamily housing on the property."

The suit said the defendants spot zoned the property for no other reason than the political pressure of some of Henderson's more influential constituents.

Contact Logan Hullinger at or 814-319-5158. Follow him on Twitter @LoganHullinger.