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Rendering by Franklin Architects / A grocery store and small shop space are proposed for a Walden parcel.
"We need responsible commercial development." — Alderman Lee Davis

Citing a need for a full-service grocery store and enhanced tax revenues, Walden officials on Tuesday voted to approve new zoning for a site to hold a proposed supermarket and small shops.

Before a packed meeting room of residents, Walden officials agreed 2-1 to rezone the property at Taft Highway and Timesville Road while putting 17 conditions on the planned $15 million development.

The proposal from landowner and Chattanooga attorney John Anderson was OK'd on first reading. A second and final reading is slated for Oct. 29.

Anderson said he had no problem with the conditions put on the project that includes a 43,000-square-foot grocery store and about 10,000 square feet of small shop space on the longtime site of the Lines Orchids greenhouse.

He said after the vote that he appreciated the work put in by the officials.

"I look forward to the second reading," Anderson said. He declined to name the grocer eyed for the store, saying he's under a confidentiality agreement. Food City last year had looked at putting a store in the adjacent town of Signal Mountain, but was turned down.

Walden resident Mickey Robbins, who opposed the rezoning of the 9-acre tract to village commercial, said he believed there was a strong sentiment by town residents against the project.

"Change done right propels communities forward." — Mayor Bill Trohanis

He said there should be a land-use plan for the town before such a project like Anderson's was approved.

Voting for the project were town Mayor Bill Trohanis and Alderman Sarah McKenzie. Alderman Lee Davis voted no.

Davis said that if the rezoning for the project was approved, it would lead to "irreparable harm to the town."

"We need commercial development. We need responsible commercial development," he said.

Davis said the town should not "yield to the perceived fear of the loss of the Hall tax" revenue. The state is gradually eliminating the Hall Income Tax, some of which has been directed back to small cities.

But, Trohanis said that as the community changes, so do the needs of its citizens. Over the past six months since the project emerged, he said he has heard families talk about the need for convenience.

"Change done right propels communities forward," the mayor said.

While noting the town was divided on the proposal, he said environmental and building concerns would be addressed by the zoning conditions and permitting for the project.

some text Rendering by Franklin Architects / A proposed grocery store in Walden would sit at the back of land identified for the project, while small shop space would go up against Taft Highway.

McKenzie said she believed a full-service grocery store on the mountain would occur somewhere.

"If it's outside of town, we lose control," she said, citing the look of the project and tax revenues.

McKenzie also said she believed the store would decrease traffic going down the mountain to shop.

In addition, she said, the current site is "an eyesore," and Anderson's plan includes green space.

But, Davis called for a town land-use plan, saying a delay of six months or a year wouldn't make a difference to Anderson's project.

"We've got to slow down," he said.

Anderson has 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.

"It would have all the amenities to provide the town with the highest and best use," he said.

Anderson said part of the tract already is zoned commercial. He said commercial zoning permits uses such as convenience stores and gas stations.

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

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