New Hope Presbyterian Church on Monday lost a bid to lift a provision in a Chattanooga ordinance that could enable the city to close a left turn lane on Shallowford Road that leads to its campus.
Elizabeth Savard, a ruling elder in the church, said after the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission turned back the request that New Hope will keep fighting when it goes before the City Council on Oct. 9.
"We're still not done yet," she said.
The church at 7301 Shallowford Road had sought the planning panel's OK to lift the provision in the ordinance. That provision permits the closing of the left turn lane at Napier Drive, which goes by the church and into the Waterside shopping center.
The church said that eliminating the turn lane would negatively impact the 45-year-old 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.
"We've had safe access for 40 years," Savard said.
Also, she said, removing the left turn lane would "significantly diminish that value of the land."
However, Chattanooga developer Ken DeFoor said his group has spent two decades trying to build up the shopping center.
"We've got part of the way there," he said.
DeFoor said the development needs the exit out Napier to Shallowford Road.
The church offered a compromise to provide land for a cul-de-sac on Napier if the shopping center would make the road from Waterside to Napier one way.
However, the planning commission turned back the church's request.
DeFoor said after the meeting he wasn't sure if an agreement with New Hope could be reached.
The church is one of the few longtime property holders on busy Shallowford Road near Hamilton Place to hang on to their land and not sell to a developer.
But Ronald Young, president of the church entity that owns the tract, said earlier that New Hope may finally sell and relocate to another building a couple of blocks away.
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.
The planning commission staff had recommended denying New Hope's request. Planners said the city needs to keep open the option to close the left turn lane if such action is required 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.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.