This is the message that developer Duane Horton had for the City Council when he withdrew his zoning request at Highway 153 and U.S. 27 at this time:
My name is Duane Horton and I am the President of Scenic Land Company. I have been engaged by the property owner’s to develop a plan for their property. We have worked with the owners, planners & regulatory agencies as well as listened to the community as we worked from an original concept to the plan that exists today.
While we have made significant progress, we respectfully request a withdrawal of the rezoning application at this moment to have more time to work with the community and address conflicting information.
In regards to the Mayor’s comments, I have not personally discussed this rezoning request with the Mayor but my understanding of his comment is that the community may miss an opportunity to create something better for them if they are opposed to any development of this site. The private property owners can legally develop their property as it is currently zoned. The issue at hand should not be whether or not the site will be developed, but whether it should be developed as currently zoned. The community plan states the site is not zoned properly to meet the interest of the Hixson community, City of Chattanooga or Hamilton County. The community created the plan known as the Hixson North River Community Plan to address unorganized development and promote proper development, not stop it completely.
We have had several community meetings in addition to numerous meetings with the planners and leaders. We have already made significant alterations to the plan based on constructive feedback and community input. We are currently on our third iteration. It is our desire to continue and refine the plan and communicate what the plan has to offer by advancing the Hixson North River Community Plan further than any prior development.
We would like additional time to address statements of opinion made regarding traffic and environmental concerns. As an example, all TDOT stations in the region have shown a decline in traffic between 2005 and 2010. This plan has addressed these issues. We have proved we can not only meet all federal, state, county and city regulations but exceed them by more than any other privately funded project of this scale in the region. Regarding the environment, the Comprehensive Plan 2030 “recommends that alterations to natural conditions should respect areas adjacent to the Preserve and Reserve Sectors”. The Comprehensive Plan does not prohibit alterations to natural conditions in areas adjacent to the Preserve and Reserve Sectors. To do so would have resulted in a constructive taking of any private property adjacent to the Preserve and Reserve Sectors. For additional clarification, the proposed site is not even adjacent to the North Chickamauga Creek. There are other private property owners between the two areas. Still, this plan has respected the environmental concerns by:
· locating smaller footprint buildings in areas with slopes,
· over-sizing detention ponds,
· providing over three times the required buffering area,
· and offering the largest privately funded bio-swale installation in the region.
The proposed site is the last undeveloped property of its size not zoned for commercial use. The City and County’s Comprehensive Plan 2030 states that HWY 153 is a major commercial corridor. It also states it is in the outer suburban growth sector which encourages both outward growth and infill.
The HNRC Plan was amended in 2005 to state “one of the main goals in the HNRC Plan is to develop commercial nodes” because “nodes provide for long-term economic sustainability”. The plan goes further to state that “These nodes……..will feed new life into the suburban strip” (page 27 of the HNRC Plan) and are one of the best ways to encourage redevelopment and revitalize other commercial areas short of offering tax incentives.
The only contingency to this site being rezoned as a commercial node was to address its access within the limits of the restricted access area and Boy Scout Road. Our current plan has addressed this issue by organizing additional property to the south and gaining sole access to HWY 153 in unrestricted areas. By providing access outside of the restricted access area, our site is legally no different than other sites a mile or more down the road. Even though we have addressed the issue, we have also agreed to privately fund an additional left turn lane exiting Boy Scout Road onto HWY 153 at the request of the City Traffic Engineer. This improvement will not only address an area of concern that has been documented for years, it will be an improvement over current conditions even after the site is fully developed.
Over the years a series of planning decisions were made which resulted in this property being located right along a major traffic corridor. Commercial zoning now extends the length of this section of HWY 153, with the exception of this site. The owners of this property did not ask or seek for any of these changes to the community surrounding them, but they are seeking that they be treated no differently than other private property owners in similar circumstances. The property owners have shown more than a willingness to work with the community to make this site the best it can be, balancing their rights as property owners and citizens with those of the larger community.
In summary, I am seeking that the city council grant this request to withdraw the current application and actively work with the organized group of willing property owners to create a plan that is best for all parties involved. As documented in numerous sources, the current zoning does not meet this need. Attempts to stop any and all development of this site will not be in anyone’s best interest especially at a time when jobs and tax revenues are needed the most. With additional time and more direct communication can we better define the issues, explain the resolutions, and address many of the conflicting statements that have been spread through the community. We look forward to working with the planners and community advisory board to continue in this effort.