Signal Mountain residents voice questions, concerns about proposed grocery store; landowner says it would boost tax revenues

Signal Mountain residents voice questions, concerns about proposed grocery store; landowner says it would boost tax revenues

April 23rd, 2019 by Mike Pare in Local Regional News

This is a rendering by Franklin Architects of a proposed new grocery store in the town of Walden atop Signal Mountain.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

Attorney John Anderson talks to an overflowing meeting room Tuesday afternoon at the Development Resource Center on Market Street. Anderson discussed a proposed new grocery store in the town of Walden atop Signal Mountain.

Attorney John Anderson talks to an overflowing meeting...

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

Signal Mountain residents fired lots of questions at one of the landowners behind a proposed new grocery store in Walden as worries about its size and need arose at a meeting Tuesday.

A group of nearly 100 people showed up at the downtown Chattanooga meeting, where attorney John Anderson laid out a case for the 49,000-square-foot store at Taft Highway and Timesville Road.

WHAT’S NEXT

A proposal to rezone property at Taft Highway and Timesville Road to hold a grocery store is to be heard May 13 at 1 p.m. by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission at the County Courthouse.

"Retail sales will remain at home," said Anderson about what he suggested was one of the key benefits of the shopping center that would hold the store and about 10,000 square feet of other retail or office space.

Anderson, who practices law in Chattanooga and lives in Walden, said there's from between $22 million and $32 million in food sales consumed at home that's currently bought off Signal Mountain annually.

The potential total retail "leakage," including items such as pharmacy sales, pet food, and alcohol, is more than $101 million annually, he said.

"That's a lot of money," Anderson said.

He estimated that on $16 million annually in grocery sales at the store, Walden could garner some $200,000 annually in sales taxes from the new development. Another $160,000 could go to Hamilton County Schools, Anderson said.

Fuel sales from a proposed on-site station would create even more in tax receipts, he said, while property taxes would be additional.

Anderson said that 120 new full- and part-time jobs would be created by the grocer, which he termed "a regional chain," while declining to give its name.

Last year, a 38,000-square-foot Food City was proposed for the adjacent town of Signal Mountain, but was voted down by the town council.

Some mountain residents at the Tuesday meeting questioned the size of the proposed Walden store.

Jeff Billings said he has concerns about "a big development." He also worried about how traffic might be affected at the store site.

Laura McCormick said she's not opposed to growth or expansion on the mountain "if it's done responsibly."

Mountain resident Elizabeth Baker said the Walden proposal is different from the store that was planned for the town of Signal Mountain and not so near a residential area, which she termed "a huge difference." But, she still raised questions about the proposal.

Melissa Cantrell, too, said she worried about the size of the proposed store, calling that "a huge consideration."

Other questions included how the proposed project would fit environmentally, as well as within the more relaxed lifestyle in the town.

Anderson said the current prototype for grocery stores is in the mid- to upper-40,000-square-foot range.

He said that project tax receipts for Walden would help replace those lost from the phasing out of the state Hall income tax on dividends. Anderson said Walden received about $274,000 from the Hall tax in the town's 2018 budget. By Jan. 1, 2021, that tax will be eliminated, he said.

Anderson said a traffic study indicated that the level of service on Taft Highway would be unaffected by the development.

Architect Bob Franklin, whose company is designing the project, termed the property "an excellent site" for such a development.

"It's reclaiming an existing development," he said. "The site makes sense. It's screened. It's heavily buffered."

The 9-acre tract for many years has held Lines Orchids Greenhouse, which is moving to a Soddy-Daisy location and sold the property to Anderson's group.

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


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