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A grocery store is proposed as the anchor of a new development in Walden. / Rendering by Franklin Architects

WHAT’S NEXT

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission will consider the rezoning proposal for the Walden project on Monday at 1 p.m. at the Hamilton County Courthouse.

A proposed Walden grocery store and related retail and office space would generate more than $600,000 in tax revenues a year for the town and Hamilton County, the landowner says.

"Not only will the proposed development be a sustainable source of revenue, but the project will provide a town/village design standard for all of Walden," said Chattanooga attorney John Anderson in a letter to residents.

On Monday, the proposed $15 million project will go before the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission as Anderson seeks to rezone nine acres.

Regional Planning Agency staff have recommended the panel deny a revamped proposal by Anderson for the Taft Highway and Timesville Road site. But, planners said they would recommend approval if the grocery store was about half the proposed 44,000 square feet, among other conditions.

Anderson said that no matter the Planning Commission's decision, the project will go before Walden's mayor and aldermen for their consideration.

As of Wednesday, more than 60 residents on Signal Mountain have emailed the planning agency in the last month or so expressing opinions either for or against the project.

Anderson said in his letter that local option sales tax revenues off food and fuel sales annually would hit $237,500 for Walden. Also, the town would garner $28,000 in property taxes a year, he said.

In addition, Hamilton County's share of the sales tax for schools would be $190,000 annually, Anderson said. County property tax revenue would be $154,560, he said.

Anderson said that with the elimination of the Hall Income Tax by state legislators, it appears Walden would need to replace at least $300,000 of lost revenue in fiscal 2018-19.

"The proposed grocery store development allows Walden to replace the lost revenue without adding to the tax burden of its citizens by capturing tax revenue already being paid for groceries and fuel by residents," he said.

Additionally, the project would employ from 100 to 120 people in full- and part-time jobs, the attorney said.

People who live on Signal Mountain are split about the proposal.

Bob Linehart said he'd like to see the grocery store approved.

"While we appreciated the recent changes Chuck Pruett has made to our mountain's only grocery store [Pruett's], the store still doesn't provide the variety or pricing we demand from a grocery store we will use on a regular basis," he said in an email to the planning agency.

But Sandra Koss said the mountain already has Pruett's, CVS Pharmacy, Signal Mountain Pharmacy, a Dollar General store and three gas stations. Also, she said, there are 16 or so empty building locations on the mountain.

"Why would we think that when we currently have difficulty maintaining businesses in the prime area of Signal Mountain, that this proposed location would be able to maintain these businesses?" she asked.

Still, Carolyn Geil said she favors a new grocery store.

"While I love Pruitt's and shop there occasionally (and would hate to see them leave the mountain), I also have to consider the needs of my aging parents," she said.

However, Mary Catherine O'Kelley said that even though Anderson reduced the grocery store's footprint to 44,000 square feet from 49,000 square feet earlier this year, she is still "completely opposed" to the development.

She cited concerns about the fuel tanks and water system buried on top of abandoned coal mines in the area.

Anderson said that the development, on which he's seeking "village commercial" zoning, will create what's called "The Town Center of Walden."

He said he plans to donate seven acres to Walden and provide "a substantial area of passive permanent green space adjacent to the office/retail."

According to census data collected in 2016, Anderson said, there are 6,200 households in the 37377 zip code which spend more than $42 million in groceries each year, not including alcohol, pet food and personal care.

Also, he said, there are at least $30 million in retail sales which "leak out" of the zip code into cities which collect sales tax outside that area.

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

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