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Rendering by Franklin Architects / Small shop space will line Taft Highway in Walden and sit in front of a proposed grocery store, officials say.

A mediation attempt has failed in a lawsuit related to a controversial planned grocery store that pits Walden and landowner John Anderson versus some citizens of the town.

Town attorney Sam Elliott said Wednesday that the parties mediated an entire day and held negotiations open for a couple of weeks and couldn't reach agreement.

The case is headed back to court and the parties are awaiting a hearing date, he said.

But the original judge in the case, Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge J.B. Bennett, has recused himself without explanation, Elliott said. He said another judge will be appointed.

Early this year, a lawsuit was filed asking a judge to stop the proposed 44,000-square-foot supermarket in Walden on Signal Mountain.

In January, two Walden residents and another person who lives near the planned project at Taft Highway and Timesville Road filed suit against landowner LOP LLC and the town.

Gary Smith and Linda Collins, both of Walden, and Anthony Wheeler, who lives in Hamilton County, brought suit claiming that the town board that passed the ordinance and approved the project was in direct conflict with a land use plan and zoning.

The suit cited a failure to require a comprehensive plan for a complete village center, and it said the project encourages strip or generic suburban commercial development with large parking areas.

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Rendering by Franklin Architects / The latest rendering showing the exterior of the proposed Walden supermarket reveals it will include mountain stone and siding to break up the facade.

The town, in its answer, said it had the authority to decide planning and zoning matters in the case involving construction of the grocery store and small shop space.

Anderson, a Chattanooga attorney and a partner in the development group LOP LLC, said the decision by the town board late last year was "supported by material evidence, had a rational basis, was fairly debatable and was not arbitrary, capricious or illegal."

On Tuesday, the town board approved the exterior appearance and building materials of the supermarket, which documents earlier submitted to the town describe as a Food City store.

Chattanooga architect Bob Franklin said the store will include mountain stone and siding to break up the facade.

"The point is to break down the facade so it doesn't appear as one homogeneous building," he said. "We believe we've done that. We very much want this to be Waldenesque."

Anderson said that new drawings of the project were made in conjunction with the store tenant.

"It is a commitment to build what you see," he said. "That's what's going to be built."

Meanwhile, officials said a new traffic study done earlier this year by the firm Barge Waggoner showed a turn lane and deceleration lane were needed in front of the center.

Alderwoman Sarah McKenzie said the latest traffic study recommends a left turn lane starting at Timesville Road going northbound. Also, the lane will accommodate motorists turning left as they leave the center, she said.

Walden Vice Mayor Lee Davis said he was surprised the traffic study was undertaken before schools reopened. Also, he said, Mayor Bill Trohanis provided the results of the study to the town attorney. Then, the results were passed onto Anderson before Davis and McKenzie could review it, the vice mayor said.

"It created distrust about this project," said Davis, who is running for mayor against Trohanis. "In my opinion the data is now flawed."

Trohanis said no one knew when school would reopen due to the pandemic.

"I said, "Let's get this done,' and they did it," he said, adding that "if I made a mistake, I apologize."

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

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