Chattanooga zoning board votes to re-hear South Broad Publix case

Chattanooga zoning board votes to re-hear South Broad Publix case

December 5th, 2018 by Mike Pare in Breaking News

This story was updated Dec. 5, 2018, at 7:20 p.m. with more information.

After voting down a developer's plan last month for a Publix store on South Broad Street, a Chattanooga zoning panel Wednesday agreed to re-hear the case in January.

By a 5-3 vote, the Chattanooga Board of Zoning Appeals voided its earlier decision. It's expected to hold another hearing Jan. 2 on the proposed Publix that Alliance Realty Services wants to build at South Broad and St. Elmo Avenue.

"There are new information and issues," said panel Chairman Scott McColpin.

Board member Jeffrey Brown, who sought to rescind November's 5-4 vote against the Publix plan, said one of three variances that were considered wasn't needed and some panel members may have voted on inaccurate information.

Document: South Broad Street Publix rendering

A Publix supermarket is proposed for South Broad Street on a 4-acre tract that includes the site of the former Mt. Vernon restaurant. (Rendering by Hiscutt & Associates)

Source: Rendering by Hiscutt & Associates

"I don't believe the applicant received a fair hearing," Brown said.

Mike Price of MAP Engineers, representing Alliance Realty, said it brought the new information to the attention of the city attorney's office, which passed it on to the board.

He said the board last month voted once on all three variance requests collectively, when only two were needed. The variance behind Brown's motion involved how much glass is required to go on the front of the new grocery store, and Price said the developer's plan meets existing zoning.

However, board member Joe Manuel, who voted against rescinding last month's decision, questioned if there was enough public notice.

"The motion flies in the face of notice to the community," he said.

But, City Attorney Phil Noblett said that even though Brown's request didn't make the board agenda, notice was emailed to panel members of the intent to present the motion.

Manuel also worried that voting to rescind would set a precedent for future cases, prompting applicants who lose cases to return over and over.

"If we fall into that pattern, we'll never have finality," he said. "Whoever loses will want to continue the fight in hopes they'll ultimately prevail."

Community members and others were split over the board re-hearing the Publix proposal.

"It's the fair thing to do," said Ann Weeks, president emeritus of the South Broad Redevelopment Group. "We're glad it will be brought up before the board."

Garnet Chapin, who lives in the area, said he thought re-hearing the case is "completely appropriate."

Chapin said he was hopeful the developer would hold another community meeting.

Still, St. Elmo resident Bert Kuyrkendall, who didn't support the developer's plan but wants a Publix at the site, said he was discouraged and frustrated.

What's next

The Chattanooga Board of Zoning Appeals is expected to re-hear the proposed South Broad Street Publix case as its next meeting on Jan. 2 at 10 a.m. at the Development Resource Center.

He said that given the way the project has proceeded, "it gives the impression the system is skewed against the neighborhood in favor of developers."

Chattanoogans for Responsible Development member Jim Johnson, who also supports a Publix but not the developer's plan, said that "as a citizen, it just feels wrong."

Johnson said while people may be getting tired of fighting the proposal, opponents are "bringing this out behind closed doors. There hadn't been an awareness of the process."

Alliance Realty had originally sought a C-2 rezoning of the 4-acre tract for the planned supermarket in favor of the current urban general commercial zone, which includes the site of the former Mt. Vernon restaurant.

But many people in the area objected to the developer putting the building at the rear of the lot with parking in front. They wanted to keep existing zoning, which would enable the store to go up close to the street and ultimately bolster property values in the neighborhood, they said.

In July, the city's Planning Commission voted in favor of keeping existing zoning but granting a variance related to the size of the planned store along with some small shop space on the tract. But the project still needed Board of Zoning Appeals approvals to move ahead.

Contact staff writer Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.