Mountain Creek resident Steve Hunt said he would love to have a "world class park" featuring mountain biking and hiking trails, bouldering and areas for picnicking, but not if it also means the building of more apartments near his Mountain Creek home.
Hunt is one of seven residents in the area who have formed Friends of Mountain Creek in an effort to have a say in how home builder James Pratt III develops what used to be the Quarry golf course near Mountain Creek and Reads Lake roads. Also part of the discussion around the future of the area is the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy, which was given almost 200 acres on the side of Walden's Ridge by the late Jack McDonald.
The land stretches from the W Road on the side of the mountain to the area where Quarry clubhouse and first and second holes were. Pratt's original proposal sought to put 56 owner-occupied townhomes, 47 rental townhomes, 40 single-family units and 10 apartments on the property. This latest plan calls for putting single-family homes and high-density rental properties on 32 of the 52 acres Pratt now owns and leaving the remaining 22 as greenways, including an area that would provide access to the proposed Walden's Ridge Park.
Pratt and the neighbors have been involved in a dispute over project for more than two years. Pratt is suing the city of Chattanooga over a rezoning plan for the property, which Pratt claims would render the site worthless.
The land where the former Quarry golf course stood, was not zoned for development during that time but was changed when then-owners wanted to add a bar to the course's clubhouse. The course eventually closed, with the new zoning laws in tact, and Pratt bought the property to develop single-family units and townhomes.
If the property is fully developed as originally proposed, the conservancy property would essentially be landlocked, according Conservancy President Taft Sibley. The group has been developing plans for the park since about 2014, and executive Director Tim Laramore said his group has raised $450,000 for a park to date, and Pratt's newest proposal is to repurpose two former fairways into a green space residents that would also serve as an entryway to the hiking, biking and bouldering areas on the conservancy-owned land.
Hunt loves everything about the idea, except for the apartments, which Pratt said in a letter to the conservancy, would be limited to 140 rental units. According to Sibley, the new plan is supported by fellow greenway and outdoor advocates such as green/spaces, Thrive, Southeast Off Road Bicycle Association, Southeast Climbers Coalition and others.
"We are thrilled at the prospects of a world class park," Hunt said. "Thank you to the McDonald Family. Thank you to the North Chick Conservancy and thank you to Hamilton County for this idea and having a trail head there. We fully support green/spaces and Open Spaces efforts.
"But, the last thing this area wants or needs is more apartments."
Hunt said he drives past more than a dozen apartment complexes on his daily commutes on Mountain Creek Road, and said he and his neighbors are opposed to more being built.
Also currently in dispute is the rezoning of the club house property from a C2 commercial zoning, which is generally what you find in highly commercial areas, to a C1 zoning.
In addition to the Walden's Ridge Park, the latest Pratt proposal would keep a large Post Oak tree, and also protect almost 14 acres around the clubhouse as public greenway. Pratt's plans also protect 8 acres surrounding Mountain Creek as public greenway, secure stream buffers on the property, create a greenway along Mountain Creek through the property from Mountain Creek Greenway to the proposed Walden's Ridge Park, and omit developing the old clubhouse into apartments.
The new Pratt proposal would include 80 new homes, 140 rental units on the east end of the property and the creation of new ponds in the 22 acres of public greenway areas.
Sibley said his organization was put in the somewhat awkward position of being an intermediary between Friends of Mountain Creek and Pratt, early on, but those talks quieted as it became clear the FOMC are adamantly against new rental properties being build nearby.
Nearly 60 residents sent emails and letters to the conservancy stating their opposition to the proposal. Many of those noted the increased traffic, the high-density apartments and Post Oak Tree, as well as the potential damage or loss of the streams and ponds as reasons for the opposition.
Susan Cooper wrote, "I reject the proposed plan and aspire to a better outcome. There is a middle ground of all R-1 construction preserving the tree, greenspace, streams and ponds.
"My question is why do we need more and more and more housing in Chattanooga? Mr. Pratt seems to be determined to insist upon his plan no matter what that does to the neighboring residents in the Mountain Creek Area. Money and power seems to be his motivator. We do not need apartments in the area. We need residents that have an investment in their homes who will take pride in the care of their residence. A greater need is green space. The Quarry property should be left undeveloped as a housing community and remain a recreational community."
Conservancy advocates green/spaces and Thrive Regional Partnership sent letters of support to the conservancy expressing their support. Michael Walton is the executive director of green/spaces and addressed the idea of high density, or rental properties in his letter.
"While anecdotally, we often hear that rental and high-density housing can affect home prices, we do not see the impact on appraisals, and indeed there is nothing on an appraiser's standard forms that even allows them to enter proximity to rental housing as an indicator for comparison with other properties. While a study from MIT demonstrated that proximity to higher density rental housing has no significant impact on single family home values, other studies have shown that proximity to parks and open spaces that are in close proximity to a suburban wooded preserve have a 19- 37% increase in property value."
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.