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Marty Haynes

Hixson residents did not get the hard answer they wanted Wednesday about a much-debated rezoning at Thrasher Pike and Middle Valley Road.

The Hamilton County Commission's Zoning Committee took no action on the controversial request that would open the door for a suspected Wal-Mart grocery store to open in the largely residential area. But those opposed to the project got soft support from Commissioner Marty Haynes, who represents Hixson and leads the county commission's zoning committee.

Normally, the zoning committee would recommend approval or denial of the project and report that to the commission next week before the vote. The committee took no action -- but Haynes still let his position be known.

"At this time, I am leaning in opposition to this development," Haynes said at Wednesday's agenda session, adding that new information could change his mind.

One-fourth of the four-parcel property is already zoned for commercial use, but developers are asking the commission to extend that to three other adjacent parcels, which are zoned agricultural or residential. The project has passed the Regional Planning Commission, and the county commission will have the final say next week.

Residents who live within two miles of the development have strongly opposed the project. And months of meetings with Haynes and the developer have not swayed them. But many in the rest of Hixson have been strong supporters, Haynes said.

"This is going to disappoint people who are close to me ... but I have to listen to the people who live closest to this and will be impacted the most," he said.

Wednesday's discussion came after months of public meetings and a two-week deferral at the county commission. Commissioners heard more than 40 minutes of comments from those in favor of the project -- mainly the developer, The Hutton Company -- and those opposed -- residents who live nearby.

About 60 residents packed the Hamilton County Commission room, and most of them stood when asked if they supported the rezoning. But when Commissioner Sabrena Smedley asked how many of those in support lived within two miles of the proposed development, fewer than 10 remained standing.

Conversely, about 25 residents opposed to the development stood when asked if they lived within two miles of it.

Matt Phillips, vice president of real estate for The Hutton Company, told commissioners the development was expected to bring in $500,000 in sales and property taxes to Hamilton County, with 95 percent of that in sales taxes.

But Commissioner Tim Boyd disputed whether that was new revenue. He said new sales tax revenue would only be revenue that would be moving out of competing stores in nearby municipalities.

"I'm concerned that this is not growth sales, this is just redistribution of sales and the city of Chattanooga is going to have to make up $490,000 in sales tax revenue," Boyd said.

Residents shared concerns over traffic, future costs of widening Middle Valley Road, crime and the general safety of students at the soon-to-open Ganns Middle Valley Elementary School. But the most widely expressed concern was simply quality of life.

Susan Kyle, who lives two blocks from the proposed store, said the planned 24-hour grocery store just isn't a welcome neighbor.

"We roll up our sidewalks at 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. at night," Kyle said. "It's a quiet neighborhood. We are a bedroom community."

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com, @glbrogdoniv on Twitter or at 423-757-6481.

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