“It's not just our congregation, but we've got civic organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous and the Girl Scouts that use that facility.”
For decades, New Hope Presbyterian Church was one of the few longtime property holders on busy Shallowford Road near Hamilton Place to hang onto their land and not sell to a developer.
"The property is valuable. It has been for many years. Our position has been that we belong here," said Ronald Young, president of the church entity that owns the 7301 Shallowford Road tract.
But now, as the 42-year-old church appears ready to finally sell and relocate to another building a couple of blocks away, a city ordinance may jeopardize the deal and potentially threaten New Hope's future.
On Monday, the church will ask the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission to lift a provision in the ordinance that permits the closing of a left turn lane from Shallowford Road used to access New Hope's property.
Young said that eliminating the turn lane would have "a negative impact on our congregation." It would cause motorists on Shallowford from Interstate-75 to drive past the church and turn left on Lifestyle Way near the Embassy Suites hotel. Motorists would then have to navigate the burgeoning Waterside shopping center to get to the church, Young said.
"It's not just our congregation, but we've got civic organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous and the Girl Scouts that use that facility," he said.
At the same time, New Hope is looking to sell the property and relocate to an available church building two blocks away, he said.
Young said the Drury Hotel chain wants to build lodging on the New Hope site, a deal that would finance the church's move and more.
But, he asked, why would a hotel want to build on a site when it's difficult to get to the property.
"This impacts our deal," Young said.
However, the staff of the Planning Commission is recommending the panel deny the church's request on Monday.
The staff said the denial is required to keep the option to close the left turn lane off Shallowford at Napier Drive, which runs next to the church, if such action is needed due to Waterside's growth.
The staff noted Napier's close proximity to I-75's off ramp and high traffic volumes on Shallowford Road particularly at peak travel times. A traffic study recommended re-making Napier into a cul-de-sac to limit trips into Napier, which now runs into Waterside.
Young said there are concerns existing developers in the area don't want the left turn lane in order to thwart the potential new hotel, which would compete with the nearby Embassy Suites.
"We don't have a lot of political connections," he said. "They may have more influence."
But, Young said, he believes the church has "a good argument" to keep the turn lane.
He said the church, which has 125 active members, has lost 17 senior members over the past 17 months due to old age, along with many of their family members.
Recently, Young said, New Hope's pastor preached a sermon on the Bible's parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14–30 that tells of a master who was leaving his house to travel and entrusts his money to his servants.
One of the servants, instead of investing the money, dug a hole and buried it. When the master returns and asks for a report, he harshly criticizes the servant who buried the money.
Young said the church came to a determination that "we felt like we buried our talents in the ground" because it had not sold the property.
"Now was our chance sell, take the profits and do a lot of good with it," he said.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.