Walden grocery store developer to withdraw rezoning, work directly with town

Staff photo by Mike Pare / John Argo, right, of SE Capital Partners, talks about a proposed new village town center in Walden at a community meeting on Monday at St. Augustine Catholic Church.
Staff photo by Mike Pare / John Argo, right, of SE Capital Partners, talks about a proposed new village town center in Walden at a community meeting on Monday at St. Augustine Catholic Church.

A developer seeking to rezone a tract in Walden for a village center and grocery store plans to withdraw the request before regional planners and work directly with the town, an attorney said Friday.

"I'm hopeful that based on discussions so far that we're close enough to the (town) land-use plan," said Kirby Yost, an attorney for developer SE Capital Partners. "Certainly there are more steps before a shovel hits the ground."

Also, the town plans to pull its request for the regional planners to review amendments to Walden zoning regulations related to the land-use plan. Walden is looking at creating its own planning commission, its attorney said.

"It's bringing the process closer to home," said the town attorney, Sam Elliott.

He said in a phone interview that "there's room to talk" with the development group about the proposed project on a 25-acre parcel.

"That's the best way to do it," Elliott said. "The developer has recognized the town is interested in the plan being followed."

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission is slated to meet Monday. Regional Planning Agency staff is recommending denial of the development group's rezoning request to the Planning Commission, saying it doesn't implement the town's land-use plan.

SE Capital Partners is proposing the $20 million mixed-use village center at Taft Highway and Timesville Road. A website seeking support for the proposal doesn't identify the grocer but said it's not Food City, Walmart, Ingles, Save A Lot, Fresh Market, Aldi or Trader Joe's. Publix, with seven stores in the Chattanooga area, is noticeably absent from the list.

John Argo, the development company's manager who has built Publix stores in other locations, said earlier in an interview that the proposed store is about 29,365 square feet in size.

In addition, the project has five retail buildings featuring small-shop space, including restaurants with outdoor seating. Also, there's mixed-use space that will likely accommodate offices, Argo said, and there's "a small pod" for a coffee shop.

In addition, he said plans call for seven single-family homes or townhouses along Timesville Road.

Along with the size of the proposed grocery store, traffic, sewer, stormwater and other issues have been raised as concerns about the project.

A past plan by another developer drew criticism from town residents and the Walden Board of Aldermen. Last year, a judge ruled against a landowner who proposed a grocery store at the Walden site, saying that an ordinance passed by the town to permit the project was illegal.

Yost said by telephone the new development group has met with the town's land-use committee and there was a decision "to work together a little more directly."

"It makes a lot more sense to work with the town planning commission so we're sure the ultimate project is what the town wants," she said.

Elliott said the town recently passed an ordinance on first reading creating its own planning commission. He said Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and other cities have their own planning panels.

Elliott said the town could contract with the Regional Planning Agency or Southeast Tennessee Development District for staff work.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.


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