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Staff file photo / A sign sits at the entrance to property holding a clubhouse and a former golf course known as the Quarry in this file photo.

This story was updated on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, at 6:30 p.m. with additional information.

A divided Chattanooga planning panel on Monday approved a proposal for a 225-unit residential development on the former Quarry golf course property despite extensive opposition.

By an 8-to-3 vote, the plan to build the multimillion-dollar development was sent on to the City Council, which is expected to hear the case next month involving a 50.2-acre tract off Reads Lake Road.

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission approved a recommendation from its staff for the development sought by Pratt Land & Development LLC.

James Pratt, the Chattanooga developer, told the panel during a virtual meeting that the new plan to build townhomes was much improved from a 2018 version that also drew stiff opposition from neighbors.

"We're leaving 35% to 40% of the whole site as green space," he said.

Also, Pratt said a large post oak tree on the site will be left undisturbed and the developer is putting in walking trails.

Forty to 50 people had sought to speak on the proposal. Due to time restraints, about a half dozen neighbors were permitted to talk and they complained about issues such as too many townhomes on the site, environmental concerns, potential flooding and destruction of green space.

Steve Hunt of the group Friends of Mountain Creek said the proposal "decimates the existing spring-fed ponds."

"This is really about low-density, single-family arguing against high-density that this plan provides," he said.

Hunt said that "we're quite rural neighborhoods, slightly suburban, predominately low density."

But planning commission member Jason Farmer said the Pratt plan is "a good and careful development."

"This is property that will get developed," he said as he offered a motion to approve the staff recommendation.

Ethan Collier, the panel's chair, said the commission has seen dozens on dozens of such developments and he lauded the Pratt proposal for the amount of open space on the tract.

"I don't recall if I've ever seen [such a development] that designates 40% of the land area as open space," he said. "Normally, we're seeing 5 to 10%. It's incredibly unusual."

Still, City Councilman Darrin Ledford, who also serves on the planning commission, voted against the proposal, noting Pratt has not held a community meeting.

He said that "one of the things it lacks is community collaboration input. I hope the conversation will move over the next month to involve the community and create understanding."

The local developer offered the revised plan after the earlier one drew an outcry from some neighbors and criticism from the Chattanooga City Council. The developer later brought a lawsuit against the council.

The latest proposal would have a residential density of 4.46 homes per acre, according to the planning staff. It said the nearby Mountain Creek Trails development has five homes per acre, while the Spring Lake subdivision has 2.6 per acre. The Links for Reads Lake apartments has 10 homes per acre, the agency said.

Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Martin, who also serves on the planning panel, asked how many homes could go on the property if the development wasn't approved and the property left as it's now zoned, which is Residential R-1.

Martin was told by staff that 251 single-family homes could be built, not including a small portion of the land that is zoned for multi-family housing such as apartments. That estimate didn't include devoting some of the land for roads.

Opponents worried that latest proposal will increase flooding.

Brian Tucker, a neighbor, said the plan "pushes more stormwater onto my property and neighbors."

"I would like to see a subdivision with single-family homes," he said.

Another neighbor was concerned about more vehicle traffic and hazards to pedestrians.

Also, there was discussion about the developer filling in small lakes at the parcel.

Pratt said plans do call for filling those in but said they're "serving no purpose from an environmental standpoint."

He said that in terms of zoning, density and flooding and stormwater, the development will follow the necessary regulations.

"If we're allowed to develop, we've got rules and regulations we need to abide by, and we'll abide by those," Pratt said.

In 2018, City Council members voted 7-2, with two abstentions, to seek specific conditions to stop Pratt from turning the former clubhouse on the Quarry site into rental apartments.

Pratt at that time had proposed a mix of single-family detached homes and townhomes for most of the property. But a years-old zoning glitch left the clubhouse property zoned C-2 commercial, which would have allowed its redevelopment into apartments.

Later that year, Pratt filed suit against the City Council, saying the defendants "grossly exceeded their authority" and violated Pratt's rights under the Tennessee and U.S. constitutions.

The lawsuit is still pending in federal court. No apartments are proposed for the clubhouse in the new plan.

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

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