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Staff photo by Mike Pare / A large tract of land for sale at East Brainerd and Bill Jones roads shown here sits across the street from an smaller parcel where Dollar General wants to put up a store in Apison. Some neighbors fear the larger piece of land also could be developed into commercial space.

Hamilton County planners are recommending denying a rezoning request for a Dollar General store in Apison, a project drawing fire from some residents worried over growth in the rural area.

But a development group for the proposed project believes there's demand for the retailer in a fast-growing part of the county and plans to seek approval despite the recommendation.

County planners said that changing the zoning of the 1.74-acre tract from agricultural A-1 to commercial C-2 isn't compatible with the area's master plan.

"Approval of C-2 would permit uses that could have nuisance or public health, safety or welfare impacts on adjacent single-family residential uses...," the staff of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency said in their assessment of the rezoning proposal.

On Monday, the Planning Commission is slated to take up the rezoning request for the 11156 E. Brainerd Road tract owned by William Hullander.

Ben Berry of Berry Engineers, who's representing the development, said there's "a good case" for the rezoning. He said there's demand for the Dollar General and the store fits in the area's growth plan.

"Growth is difficult," he said. "The reality is that area is growing fast."

Berry said the look of the store would be "rural general store" and not a typical Dollar General.

Apison resident Katie Scott, who had expressed concerns the store will pave the way for unwanted commercial projects, said she was pleasantly "kind of shocked" at the staff recommendation.

At a community meeting with the development group last month, Scott said the majority there wasn't in favor of the Dollar General, but there was a sentiment that officials wouldn't listen and the project would get done anyway.

"I'm very glad that we had a community meeting and that our community could voice our questions and concerns," she said.

Berry said Dollar General likes the vacant East Brainerd Road parcel and believes the business would do well. The closest store is four miles away, he said. While Apison once had four general stores, now it doesn't have any, Berry said.

"That's what Dollar General is seeing," he said. "They see a void in that area. It may offer a lot of convenience for a lot of residents in the area."

Berry said the growth plan does call for future commercial space in that area as it grows.

While there was a lot of people at the community meeting outspoken about not wanting any commercial development in the Apison area and keeping a rural feel, Berry said he's not sure that's the path it's on with or without Dollar General.

"There's a lot of growth in that area," he said.

The planning agency's staff said the White Oak Mountain Area 12 Plan adopted in 2019 identified the vicinity as having an Old Apison Village Crossroads. The plan said that site could include intersections at Bill Jones Road with East Brainerd Road and with Apison Pike "to serve as a gateway to the Old Apison Community with small offices and gift shops."

Also, if sewers are extended in the area, there could be a rural "Village Center of Old Apison" commercial development, the staff said.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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