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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Rock the Riverfront on the Chattanooga Green features interactive artwork "Impulse" on March 5, 2022. The oversized seesaws light up and make sounds.

NASHVILLE — Hamilton County legislators are giving a thumbs-down to Gov. Bill Lee's proposed $725,700 grant for Chattanooga's River City Co. to secure the use of a waterfront parking lot for potential development.

Lawmakers were opposed to taking the lot at Riverfront Parkway and Power Alley and potentially turning it over to a developer for building something like condominiums.

"There were some members of the delegation that were concerned about taking that property which now allows for parking for access to the river for some big events like Head of the Hooch and Riverbend and some things like that," House Finance Committee Chairwoman Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain, said in an interview. "There were some concerns about blocking those kinds of events if that happened."

Hazlewood, who is chairwoman of the Hamilton County legislative delegation, said there were some other concerns about just how it might be developed and who might in the end benefit from that development.

"It is not in the legislative proposed amendment," Hazlewood said. "That money is being redirected."

House and Senate versions of the governor's $350 million-plus amendment to the $52 billion annual state appropriations act find other uses for the money.

Under both the House and Senate budget bills, those funds would now be split equally between Clinica Medicos, a nonprofit providing health care to the Hispanic community, and the Tivoli Foundation.

Clinica Medicos provides preventive and other medical care for indigents in Chattanooga. The Tivoli Foundation, which helps financially support the Tivoli Theatre downtown, is backing a "big renovation" of the historic facility that is on the National Historic Register, Hazlewood said.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said Wednesday following the panel's approval of the budget that the decision was reached by the House and Senate finance committees working together with local lawmakers.

Both Clinica Medicos and the Tivoli had made requests for state support, Watson said.

"In order to fund those requests, we moved that money from, I'll call it the parking lot request, to those two," Watson said. "We still kept the money locally. But actually, we had received a lot of feedback from the community about losing that space."

Among those raising concerns were organizers for the Head of the Hooch, an annual rowing regatta on the Tennessee River, who have fretted publicly about parking and easy river access for the event, Watson said.

"They said, 'If we don't have space down there, how are we going to do this?' The city's response to that was, 'We've got a couple of years to figure that out.'

"And I don't think we ever got comfortable with that," Watson said. "That may come back next year, as I think they bake that plan a little better and help us understand the impact it will have on some of these events."

Efforts to reach River City Co. President and CEO Emily Mack Wednesday afternoon were unsuccessful. City of Chattanooga officials had no comment.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.

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