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Rendering by Franklin Architects / The proposed Walden grocery store would sit on land which now holds the Lines Orchids greenhouse off Taft Highway.

A controversial plan for a grocery store project in Walden on Signal Mountain may come to a head Tuesday when town officials are expected to vote on rezoning land to hold the development.

"We're always cautiously optimistic," said Chattanooga attorney John Anderson, who owns the 15-acre tract at Taft Highway and Timesville Road. "We have a good quality project. We're hopeful to move onto the next step."

But, an opponent of the project said he hasn't been convinced during public meetings on the $15 million proposal, saying there are "several very good reasons" to object.

Richard Ford cited legal, community, traffic and environmental problems with the project.

"What's needed is a land-use plan — a town land-use plan," he said. "It's a main point. You plan first. You don't build first."

Anderson, a Chattanooga attorney who lives in Walden, said the proposed 43,000-square-foot store would be "full service" and give Walden the chance develop a town center. The sto would go on the rear of the site, while about 10,000 square feet of small shop space would be placed along Taft Highway. Anderson has declined to name the grocer eyed for the store, though a developer last year sought to put a Food City in the adjacent town of Signal Mountain.

Anderson said his proposal would provide Walden with a town center and a meeting place for residents, and that Walden could garner some $200,000 annually in sales taxes based on $16 million a year in grocery sales at the store.

WHAT'S NEXT

Walden town officials are slated to vote Tuesday on first reading for a rezoning change on land where a grocery store development is proposed.

"It would have all the amenities to provide the town with the highest and best use," he said, including land set aside for public space.

Anderson said the tract already is zoned commercial, having held the Lines Orchids greenhouse for many years. He said commercial zoning permits uses such as convenience stores and gas stations. He's seeking "village commercial" zoning on the site.

But, Ford said Anderson's plan isn't "a true village center."

"That calls for a small grocery store, small retail, a more community oriented development including residential," he said, adding that such a project includes small blocks and sidewalks. "A true village center is more desirable."

In addition, some opponents have objected to Anderson's plan because they believe it would hurt the existing small-town feel in Walden.

Joe Robbins Jr. said at a public meeting last month attended by more than 200 people that he had lived in Walden for 44 years, and he opposed the project because he supports "the small-town atmosphere."

Robbins also had environmental and erosion control concerns about the proposal.

Anderson said he thinks the project would "enhance the rural small-town feel. It absolutely is in keeping with that."

Frank Powell, a part owner in the existing Pruett's grocery store on Signal Mountain and a Walden resident, said he's not worried about the proposed store affecting the feel of the town.

"Grocery stores are looking," he said. "The key to me for Walden is to get the right location."

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

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