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Staff Photo by Mike Pare / A Lines Orchids sign sits at Taft Highway and Timesville Road in Walden on Friday, May 13, 2022. The parcel is where a development group proposed putting a supermarket and small shops.

The owner of a Walden tract appears to be moving past a controversial proposal for a grocery store project on the Lines Orchids site in the town, an official said Friday.

Town attorney Sam Elliott said it's his understanding that the owner is going to abandon the proposal that called for the supermarket and small shop space on the parcel at Taft Highway and Timesville Road.

The move comes after a Bradley County Circuit Court judge last summer ruled against the landowner, LOP LLC, saying that an ordinance passed earlier by the town to permit the grocery store project on the 15-acre tract was illegal.

Elliott said there was an appeal of the ruling. But Chattanooga attorney John Anderson, who was a major stakeholder in the property, died in November and the appeal was dropped, he said.

"The [Circuit Court judge's] order is final," Elliott said Friday about the proposed project in a telephone interview. "The rezoning was invalid."

Stuart Bush of LOP LLC could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Early this year, a Walden land-use plan was developed that could include the Lines Orchids land into a possible town center.

"The town recognizes something will be developed there," Elliott said. The site for many years held the Lines Orchids Greenhouse.

The land-use plan shows a town center on both sides of Timesville Road across from the existing town hall on Taft Highway. The plan includes a town square framed by one- to two-and-a-half-story, mixed-use buildings with wide, tree-lined sidewalks.

Also, the plan shows townhouses, single-family detached units and similar housing types. Low-intensity commercial or residential infill along Taft and a frontage road additionally are displayed in the plan. Parking and a trailhead connecting a new trail network to the center are included.

Anderson and LOP had won approval for the $15 million grocery store project in late 2019 from the town board after some contentious public meetings.

But in early 2020, some Walden and Hamilton County citizens filed a lawsuit against the town and the developer to stop the project.

Also, after a town election late in 2020, Chattanooga attorney and project critic Lee Davis became Walden's mayor after beating former mayor Bill Trohanis. Later, the town board indicated it was to hear a resolution calling for the town to reverse its support for the grocery store project.

But before that resolution could be heard, Anderson filed suit in Hamilton County and obtained a temporary restraining order related to the proposed resolution.

Hamilton County judges then recused themselves in the matter and the case was assigned to Bradley County Circuit Court Judge J. Michael Sharp, who heard attorneys argue the case in March 2021.

Chattanooga attorney Don Aho, who represented the citizens' lawsuit, at the time had disputed that the proposed project was a village center as defined by the town.

"This is an issue that goes through the entire proceeding — whether this is a village center or zoned as a village center," he said. The attorney termed the proposed project simply as a large grocery store and two out-parcel buildings with a 200-space parking lot.

Anderson had argued for the judge to find the town ordinance was properly passed.

In 2020, Food City was shown in a document as the identity of the proposed grocery store in Walden. Earlier, another developer and Food City tried unsuccessfully to put a supermarket in the nearby town of Signal Mountain.

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

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