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An artist's rendering of the apartments proposed for 15 acres on Mountain Creek Road across from Red Bank Elementary School.

Chattanooga City Judge Russell Bean and his two brothers want to sell what Bean describes as "our old home place" — 15 acres on Mountain Creek Road across from Red Bank Elementary School, so an Alabama developer can build an upscale 200-unit apartment complex there.

"One of my brothers is severely handicapped, so we do have to sell it," Bean told Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commissioners at their meeting Monday.

"We were there since 1948."

Planning commissioners recommended that the property be rezoned from a single family residential zone to a multi-family district so the developer, Watercross Cos. of Huntsville, Ala., may build 200 apartments, or 14 units per acre, with no massive grading or tree-clearing above the 780-foot elevation, which will preserve a wooded knoll.

That was less than the 250 units that developer originally hoped to build — but more than the 150 units that planning commission staff recommended. Staff also recommended no grading above the 750-foot elevation line.

"I think this project makes a lot of sense," planning commissioner Jason Farmer said. "I think the applicant has brought a reasonable compromise."

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Now the proposal goes before City Council on Aug. 9.

Neighbors raised concerns to planning commissioners about the project's density and the increased traffic it would bring.

Roger Thomas, who lives nearby in a townhome in the upscale Horse Creek Farms subdivision, told commissioners he was concerned about traffic from the proposed new apartments.

"We all go out to Mountain Creek Drive," he said. "And we just urge you to do everything possible to make this traffic move smoothly."

The developer's representative, Allen Jones, a landscape architect with ASA Engineering and Consulting in Chattanooga, said the main entrance to the apartment complex would be 550 feet north of North Runyon Road, which Horse Creek residents use. He also said that Watercross would be willing to help fund a traffic circle near the apartment complex, which Jones said is the safest type of intersection.

"The developer's willing to put $12,000 to $13,000 on the table to pay for the materials," Jones told commissioners. "[A traffic circle] will go toward helping the solution of the people at Runyon trying to take a left."

The Chattanooga Department of Transportation hasn't yet agreed to construct the traffic circle.

Horse Creek Farms resident Brendan Brosnan oppposed the developer's request for 250 units.

"I have an objection to the density. What you decide on this property is going to be a precedent," said Brosnan, who said most properties on Mountain Creek Road just north of the proposed apartment complex are for sale.

But Jones said that the developer's request for 14 units per acre was "on par" with similar upscale apartment complexes built recently in Chattanooga.

The proposed complex would include four-story apartment buildings, which are required to have elevators, Jones said. Elevators are a selling point, he said, for older empty nesters and Baby Boomers.

The complex would cost up to $28 million to build. Jones said rents would be around $1,100 a month.

"This developer is not competing with these '80s developments that are up the road," Jones told commissioners.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or twitter.com/meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.

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