A Chattanooga builder Monday said a request by the city to put conditions on his commercial property, without a proposal for the land's use before it, was "improper, illegal and just not right."
James Pratt of Pratt Land and Development convinced the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission to see his position as the panel turned back the city's request for the conditions.
The property is a 2.8-acre tract off Reads Lake Road that included a clubhouse on a former golf course. It was rezoned C-2 in 2002, enabling the site to potentially hold multi-family housing.
Some residents around the site worry apartments will go on the property and devalue their land.
Steve Hunt, who lives in the area, told the planning commission that when the property was rezoned from C-1 to C-2 in 2002, there wasn't proper notice given to the community about that proposed change.
"Our issue is that when it was C-2, that allows apartments," he said. "Residents of the area were denied due process."
Hunt said there's plenty of precedent about righting a wrong when due process wasn't followed.
He said there's a petition with 1,500 signatures to keep that tract and surrounding property low density and not commercially zoned.
Earlier this year, Pratt withdrew a plan to put apartments, townhomes and single-family homes on more than 30 acres at the 1001 Reads Lake Road site. At that time, Pratt told the panel he will keep the current zoning, which apparently would allow him to build some units on the tract.
But the city council then asked the planning commission to put conditions on the 2-acre tract.
City Attorney Phil Noblett said the panel has a say in such a move, and the city has the right to seek the change.
"It's an issue of property rights versus the government interest in having that area developed in the way they think is appropriate," he said.
But Tom Hayslett, an attorney for Pratt, said the property has been zoned C-2 for 16 years and Pratt bought it earlier this year.
"The city is seeking to impose conditions on its own without us asking any rezoning request," he said. "Zoning statues don't permit this."
Pratt asked the planning commission to vote "100 percent no."
"If you owned this property would you think it's right that city government over-reached their responsibility and tries to down-zone your property?" he asked.
Panel member Chris Mabee noted that the group isn't deciding on a development.
"We're deciding if it's appropriate for the city, after the fact, to impose restrictions on a property," he said in motioning to deny the city's request.
The planning commission recommendation to deny the change will go back the City Council for its review on Oct. 9.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.