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Staff photo by Tim Barber This is an artist rendering by Franklin Architects of the proposed new grocery store in the town of Walden atop Signal Mountain.

Chattanooga planners are recommending the denial of a zoning change sought by a developer to enable the construction of a new grocery store in Walden.

The project, which calls for a 49,000-square-foot grocery store and 10,000 square feet of adjacent retail space, is not compatible with the small-scale commercial development found along Taft Highway, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency staff said.

The staff recommendation, made ahead of a May 13 meeting of the Planning Commission, said the size of the buildings and parking lot, lack of pedestrian connectivity, and lack of public spaces does not meet characteristics of a preferred town center or town corridor development.

Also, the staff said that expanding the C-1 commercial zone further into a rural area doesn't meet the existing recommendations of the Walden Plateau Area Plan.

"It will also set a precedent for future requests," the staff said about the proposed project at Taft Highway and Timesville Road.

Bob Franklin, architect for the project, said it would be "unfortunate" for the proposal to not happen.

"It will be one of the few quality retail developments Signal Mountain would have," he said. "It could be the model of how good retail along a highway should be. Walden has an opportunity to have that model and collect needed taxes [from the development]. It will be a real shame if it fails for both reasons."

Many people sent in their opinions to the Regional Planning Agency.

Barret Albritton said he was concerned about an increase in traffic, noise pollution and runoff. He predicted that an anticipated gain in tax revenues would be minimal "when compared to dealing with the cost" of the concerns he raised.

But George Paturalski said there are many residents on Signal Mountain that would welcome "a well-considered and nicely executed grocery store."

Chattanooga attorney John Anderson is seeking to rezone about 15 acres at the site that for many years held Lines Orchids Greenhouse for the grocery store, which he declined to identify.

"Retail sales will remain at home," said Anderson at a recent public meeting.

Anderson estimates between $22 million and $32 million of food sales consumed every year at homes on Signal Mountain are currently bought off the mountain. The potential total retail "leakage," including items such as pharmacy sales, pet food, and alcohol, is more than $101 million annually, he said.

He estimated that on $16 million annually in grocery sales at the store, Walden could garner some $200,000 annually in sales taxes from the new development. Another $160,000 could go to Hamilton County Schools, Anderson said.

Fuel sales from a proposed on-site station would create even more in tax receipts, he said, while property taxes would be additional.

Anderson said that 120 new full- and part-time jobs would be created by the grocer, which he termed "a regional chain."

Last year, a 38,000-square-foot Food City was proposed for the adjacent town of Signal Mountain, but was voted down by the town council.

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

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