Possible Chattanooga office project gets rezoning

Possible Chattanooga office project gets rezoning

November 13th, 2012 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Chattanooga developer Ken DeFoor is seen in this file photo.

Chattanooga developer Ken DeFoor is seen in this...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

A Chattanooga developer said Monday he's looking at putting up a 15,000-square-foot office building next to his large Waterside mixed-use project in East Brainerd.

Developer Ken DeFoor said he has "no big tenant" yet for the 2-acre tract at McCutcheon and Gunbarrel roads. But he secured a zoning change from the Chattanooga-Hamilton Regional Planning Commission to allow for the commercial development.

The panel turned back the initial staff recommendation that the rezoning of the tract from residential to mixed-use be deferred. The planning agency staff had said there's a lack of safe traffic infrastructure in the area, and DeFoor has other rezoning cases nearby on Gunbarrel Road.

"Staff recommends that the applicant combine his existing zoning cases into one overall development proposal," its report said.

But Mike Price of MAP Engineers told the panel the staff met with him and DeFoor last week and came up with a proposal to allow the rezoning and avoid the safety issue.

He said a certificate of occupancy couldn't be issued until the city's planned widening of that stretch of Gunbarrel Road was done.

"That doesn't mean he can't start construction," Price added.

Dennis Malone, assistant city engineer, said the city has set aside funds to widen Gunbarrel to Standifer Gap Road.

"Our intent by fall of next year is to be under construction," he said.

City Councilman Jack Benson, who also is a planning cmmission member, said the widening of the two-lane road was contingent upon the developer giving the city the right of way.

"That's an expensive right of way in there," he said.

The first phase of widening of Gunbarrel is from Shallowford Road to just north of McCutcheon Road in front of the DeFoor property.

The planning staff also had recommended a 50-foot-wide green buffer between future development and houses that sit across Gunbarrel.

But Price said 50 feet was too much.

"To my knowledge, I don't know of a single office building anywhere in the city that has a 50-foot landscape buffer," he said. "If we were protecting the Sistine Chapel, I understand that."

Price suggested a 20-foot buffer.

John Bridger, executive director of the Regional Planning Agency, said Waterside is a big commercial center.

"We felt that a larger buffer was warranted given the scale of that development next to the houses across the street," he said. "Clearly, there may be some middle ground in between."

Price said the side of the office building would be facing the houses. He said there will be trees and other landscaping in the buffer. A 20-foot buffer was approved by planners, and the zoning change will go to the City Council for final approval.

Waterside currently holds an hhgregg electronics store and some other smaller businesses. Under construction near the Shallowford Road entrance is a $40 million Embassy Suites. Waterside still has 18 acres of developed land and 60 acres of undeveloped land left to fill, according to newspaper archives.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.