The City Council voted 5-3 on Tuesday night to deny rezoning for the $100 million Chattanooga Village retail, office and residential project in Hixson.
Opposed were Pam Ladd, Jack Benson, Manny Rico, Sally Robinson and Peter Murphy. In favor were Andrae McGary, Russell Gilbert and Carol Berz. Deborah Scott was absent.
Ms. Ladd, the District 3 representative, said there was strong opposition from Hixson residents to the project at Highway 153 and Boy Scout Road.
Attorney Joe Conner, speaking for the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy, said developer Duane Horton had declined to go along with several of the group's requests, including phased zoning of the property starting with apartments and setting aside conservation easements.
Mr. Horton said afterward, “We didn’t leave anything on the table, and were consistent about addressing every issue the community and council members had. Our team is very confident that Chattanooga Village would have made a significant positive impact in Hixson, and, unfortunately, we will not have the opportunity to see those plans unfold at this time.
“We had hoped to see a development that was unique to the Chattanooga area, and that would offer attractive options to newcomers and those already living in the area. We are going to re-evaluate all options available at this point, which may include selling the property.”
He said immediate plans for the land, which is zoned R-1 for single-family homes, have not been determined.
Mr. Horton said the project would not be feasible in phases and could be better planned as an overall project. He said 68 acres would be set aside as green space and would eventually be placed under conservation easements.
Ms. Ladd noted there had been "a lot of money" battling for and against the rezoning, including the hiring of attorneys and PR firms.
Mr. Horton said the plan was to start immediately on the apartments that would be ready by 2015. He said 70,000 square foot of retail space would open in 2015. He said a retail village would be ready by 2016 or 2017. Corporate offices were planned by 2018.
He said there had been 18 public meetings on the project and five major redesigns. He said a number of changes were made due to resident concerns.
Rick Hill, a retail expert from Bardstown, Ky., said a feasbility study was completed in early November and it showed that the retail component would work. He stated, "There is a clear market for a new urbanism market in Chattanooga." He said the retail village "would attract dynamic new retailers to the market."
Attorney Conner said, "It's great to come down from Bardstown, Ky., and say it will work," but he said there are numerous empty commercial buildings and land in Hixson, including across Highway 153 at The Fountains, with which Mr. Horton has been involved.
He said there needed to be a remote access road for fire safety, but that was not in the plan.
Ellie Wallis, who said 2,800 people signed petitions in opposition, said Mr. Horton "makes grandiose promises," but would not back them up in writing. She said there was no assurance "this won't end up as a boondoggle."
She said the developer had not gone along with the city's request on stormwater retention on the project. John Bridger of the Regional Planning Agency said the initial requirement was for stormwater retention of 1.6 inches, but he said that was a mistake because the 1.6 inches applies to South Chickamauga Creek, not North Chickamauga Creek. He said Mr. Horton wound up agreeing to a one-inch standard for the commercial area and three-fourth of an inch elsewhere. Mr. Bridger said that meets current requirements, though he said the standard is due to rise to an inch.
Mr. Bridger said the staff had recommended approval with 33 conditions. He said there had been two recent meetings that involved both sides of the issue.
The hilly, 190-acre site near North Chickamauga Creek is owned by Jack Lonas. His attorney, Sam Elliott, urged approval.