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A development plan that resulted in a lawsuit against the city of Chattanooga, state Senate and House involvement, and an upstart community organization that grew to 2,800 members has been amended to address concerns, according to a conservation group.

A revised plan would preserve a historical tree, increase a forthcoming park by 5 acres, secure stream buffers, create a greenway and eliminate plans to develop a former golf clubhouse into condominiums, according to North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy.

"We have worked closely with the Friends of Mountain Creek leadership to understand the concerns of the community as well as the best environmental outcome," wrote conservancy Executive Director Tim Laramore and President Taft Sibley in a release sent to members. "In turn, we have engaged with Pratt Home Builders to seek a compromise that will address the conservation and community aims while respecting the rights of the property owner."

Pratt Home Builders declined to comment on the matter.

The project has been at the center of a nearly two-year long debate about whether development should be allowed on the property. The debate resulted in the developer, James Pratt, suing the city of Chattanooga over a rezoning plan for the property, which Pratt claims would render the site worthless.

The property was once home to the Quarry golf course. The area was not zoned for development during that time but was changed when then-owners wanted to add a bar to the course's clubhouse. The course eventually closed, with the new zoning laws in tact, and Pratt bought the property to develop single-family units and townhomes. 

The plan was met with strong resistance from the Mountain Creek community.

Community members voiced their concerns to city council, asking elected leaders to change zoning laws back to their intended use. They gained support from their local councilman, Chip Henderson, who worked on their behalf. 

Those community members started the Friends of Mountain Creek organization and raised environmental concerns about the development. Their largest pushback came as the group worked to protect an oak tree on the property. 

The tree was one of the biggest of its kind in the state. The group thought it might be a state champion tree and tried to have it certified as such. It ended up being recognized by the Tennessee Forestry Department as the runner-up Champion Post Oak despite being significantly taller than the current champion due to the massive circumference of the current champion in Madison County, Tennessee.

Resolutions in the state Senate and House to acknowledge the significance of the tree and its place as the tallest Post Oak in the United States passed unanimously.

Meanwhile, North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy has been working with several local outdoors organizations to create a community park — to be called Walden's Ridge Park — at the adjoining property on the slopes of Signal Mountain. Once completed, the park will be donated to Hamilton County to operate in perpetuity.

Contact staff writer Mark Pace at mpace@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook at ChattanoogaOutdoorsTFP.

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