Planning Staff Recommends Denial Of New Plan For $100 Million Project At Hixson

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The staff of the Regional Planning Agency is recommending that a new plan for the controversial Hillock Farm (formerly known as Chattanooga Village) at Highway 153 near U.S. 27 be denied.

The Planning Commission is set to hear the new proposal from developer Duane Horton on the Jack Lonas 190-acre tract next Monday at 1 p.m. at the County Courthouse.

The City Council earlier declined to go along with a different version for the major retail, apartments, single-family homes and offices complex.

The report cited the steep topography at the site as well as the condition of nearby roads.

The staff report says:

The applicant is requesting to rezone approximately 190 total acres in 
the Hixson area of Chattanooga from its current R-1 Residential zone to 
three different zones: an R-3 Residential Zone (approximately 42 acres), 
a C-2 Convenience Commercial Zone (approximately 87 acres), and an 
R-4 Special Zone (approximately 48 acres). The remaining acreage 
(approximately 13 acres) is proposed to remain R-1 Residential as a 
buffer between the adjacent single-family residential neighborhoods. 
 
The site plan submitted with the application shows 280 multi-family 
residential units proposed for the northern third of the site; a 
restaurant with 130 parking spaces located at the center of the site; 
250,000 square feet of office space within several two-four story office 
buildings located on the eastern side of the site; and 500,000 square 
feet of retail with approximately 2,000 parking spaces occupying the 
bottom half of the site. The site plan indicates two access points. One 
will be from Highway 153 and the other from Stone Ridge Drive. The 
conceptual plan also indicates proposed buffers ranging from 30 to 100 
feet where the property borders existing residential properties. 
 
The applicant is proposing 39 conditions to address retention of open 
space, undisturbed buffers, stormwater management, location of 
loading docks, lighting, parking lot landscaping, building height, building 
size, residential density and road improvements to address immediate 
site impacts. 
 
Site Description 
The 190-acre site is located in the Hixson area within the City of 
Chattanooga on the eastern side of Highway 153 near its intersection 
with Boy Scout Road and US 27. It fronts Highway 153, a major 
highway/commercial corridor, and is currently zoned R-1 Residential. 
The R-1 Residential zone permits development of a single-family subdivision as well as a school and/or religious facility, or even a golf 
course. 
 
There are five small parcels in the southwest corner of the site already 
zoned C-2 Convenience Commercial currently and have direct access to 
Highway 153. While those five parcels are a part of the development 
plan, they are not part of the rezoning request. 
 
The site is bordered on all sides by single-family residential zoning and neighborhoods. Echo Glen subdivision is to the north, Stoneridge to the 
south, Long Branch, Northern Lights, and Sunset Point subdivisions are 
to the east, and Pine Marr on the west side of Highway 153. 
Approximately 40 single-family lots directly share the property line with 
the proposed development site. There are approximately 57 acres of 
commercial zoning across Highway 153 to the southwest with two 
commercial buildings and their parking areas (Kohl’s and Academy 
Sports) using about 6 of those 57 acres. There is also approximately 30 
acres of C-2 Commercial zoning north of the site between Boy Scout 
Road and U.S. 27. 
 
There are several commercial shopping centers located along Highway 
153. It is important to note the size of this proposed project as 
compared to other existing commercial shopping centers to provide a 
better understanding of the proposed scale of this project. There are 
several commercial shopping centers located along Highway 153, 
although in terms of acreage, the existing shopping centers are not as 
large as the proposed development: 
 
• 2011-Proposed Hillocks Farm: 190 acres (87 acres retail, 48 acres 
office, 42 acres apartments) 
• 2007-The Fountains/Academy Sport/Kohl’s: 60 acres 
• 2000-Oak Park Town Center/Walmart: 50 acres 
• 2004-Towne Center North/Target: 30 acres 
• 1990-Old Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, Kmart: 66 acres 
• 1974-Northgate Mall: 70 acres 
• 1987- Hamilton Place Mall: 190 acres 
 
The proposed development site is a hilly, predominately wooded site 
that drains into the North Chickamauga Creek watershed. As this site is 
large and highly visible from Highway 153, it contributes to the scenic 
character of the Hixson area. 
 
Zoning History 
A rezoning request at this location had previously been submitted in 
October 2011 (Case 2011-117) and was withdrawn by the applicant at 
City Council. In 2012, another application was made (Case 2012-157) to 
rezone the property and was denied by the Chattanooga City Council on 
January 22, 2013. 

Plans/Policies 
Comprehensive Plan 2030- This project is located in the Outer 
Suburban Growth Sector of the Comprehensive Plan 2030, adopted in 
2006. The Outer Suburban Growth Sector encourages both infill and 
new growth, with more specific recommendations by development 
type. For business uses, the Comprehensive Plan recommends that 
new mixed and multi-use development sites should be located at the intersection of significant thoroughfares and existing activity centers 
reused or revitalized as town centers. The Outer Suburban Growth 
Sector considers several types of commercial activity centers ranging 
from Neighborhood, Community and Regional Activity Centers. 
 
Due to the combined retail, corporate office, and multi-family 
programming that is proposed for the site, the overall site should be 
classified as a Regional Activity Center. Regional Activity Centers are 
defined in the Comprehensive Plan as large-scale, high intensity, and 
diverse mixtures of land uses, typically 100 or more acres in size. Due 
to their overall size, regional orientation, and traffic generating 
characteristics, such centers should have a high level of accessibility, 
including public transportation. Regional activity centers should be 
located with easy accessibility from interstate/freeway interchanges. 
The Comprehensive Plan also recommends good vehicle accessibility 
and circulation within Regional activity centers. 
 
The Outer Suburban Growth Sector recommends that any alteration of 
natural conditions should respect areas adjacent to the Preserve and 
Reserve sectors of the Comprehensive Plan. North Chickamauga Creek, 
in close proximity to this proposed development site is classified in the 
Development Plan as being located in the Preserve Development 
Sector. The Comprehensive Plan recommends the following: 
o Protect, conserve, and wisely manage the natural resources of 
Hamilton County. 
o Encourage responsible development that maintains the quality 
and integrity of existing natural resources. 
o Conserve forested land. 
o Retain the scenic beauty and diverse wildlife of Hamilton 
County. 
o Encourage development that is sensitive to steep slopes and 
additional protective measures where needed. 
 
Hixson-North River Community Land Use Plan- Originally adopted in 
2002 and updated in 2004, the Hixson-North River Community Land Use 
Plan is driven by the following vision statement adopted by the 
community: “To create a place that promotes community accessibility 
and a high quality of life for all residents through planned growth that 
maintains a visually-attractive and cohesive built environment, 
convenient public facilities, strong businesses, and protection of the 
natural environment.” 
 
One of the key recommendations of this plan is to: “Maintain a policy of 
directing commercial development within the planned nodes and 
requiring all new development within those nodes to address 
infrastructure impacts and to meet the site design principles outlined by 
this plan.“

The following is a list of Hixson Plan Commercial Development Goals: 
 
• Improve the appearance and control impacts of commercial 
development. 
• Incorporate community amenities into commercial development 
• Concentrate or cluster commercial development as opposed to strip 
development. 
• Re-use vacant commercial buildings. 
• Renovate and revitalize existing commercial areas. 
• Increase opportunity for more high-quality jobs and business growth 
in the area. 
• Increase the variety and quality of places to shop and to eat. 
 
The following is a list of Hixson Plan Natural Environment Goals: 
 
• Protect Steep Slopes 
• Protect the floodplain & woodlands along streams, particularly N. 
Chickamauga Creek 
• Protect the Cave Springs recharge area 
• Improve storm water control and management 
• Keep community clean and free from trash 
• Clean up the North Chickamauga Creek bed 
• Promote the asset value and usability of our natural areas 
• Maintain consistent atmosphere that communicates natural beauty 
through better landscaping 
• Add more green space and reduce paving/asphalt 
 
The Plan also specifically addresses the site under review as a Focus 
Area. The appropriate build-out of the site envisioned by the plan is 
contingent on the improvements to the Dayton Boulevard/Highway 153 
interchange. The Plan states: “If no intersection improvements are 
made to Dayton Boulevard/Highway 153 interchange, this site is most 
appropriate for High-Density Residential development. This relatively 
dense residential development will increase the traffic significantly at 
that intersection but not to the extent that a large commercial complex 
would.” The Plan also states: “The Heavy Business Land Use category is 
only appropriate if major intersection/interchange improvements are 
undertaken by the developer. The amount of traffic generated by a 
large commercial development at this site is not only a traffic 
generating issue but also a congestion and safety issue on lateral streets 
such as Boy Scout Road and Sandswitch Road.” 


2035 Long Range Transportation Plan- The Congestion Management 
Process (CMP) of the Transportation Planning Organization’s (TPO) 
regional 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan, documents that 
Highway 153, Dayton Boulevard/Boy Scout Road, and U.S. 27 are heavily traveled corridors. Both U.S. 27 and Highway 153 are projected 
to reach or exceed capacity in the next three years and there are no 
scheduled or planned roadway improvements between now and 2025 
to increase their capacity. 
 
** It should be noted that the current draft 2040 Regional 
Transportation Plan (to be adopted this Spring) proposes widening 
Highway 153 from a 4-lane section to a 6-lane section from Stone Ridge 
to US-27 which is planned to be constructed by the year 2020. 
However, the draft plan proposes no improvement to the Dayton 
Boulevard interchange. 

All land development projects are reviewed by City Engineering & 
Water Quality staff, Traffic Engineering & Operations staff, and the Land 
Development Office staff. In addition to the requirements of the City of 
Chattanooga Zoning Ordinance, all land development is further required 
to comply with current City of Chattanooga traffic regulations, building 
and development codes, storm water/water quality regulations, and 
the landscape ordinance. 


All land development projects are reviewed by City Engineering & 
Water Quality staff, Traffic Engineering & Operations staff, and the Land 
Development Office staff. In addition to the requirements of the City of 
Chattanooga Zoning Ordinance, all land development is further required 
to comply with current City of Chattanooga traffic regulations, building 
and development codes, storm water/water quality regulations, and 
the landscape ordinance. 
 
Additional requirements, if needed, are indicated by department below 
either as comments or as conditions recommended to be attached to 
the final ordinance. 


Additional requirements, if needed, are indicated by department below 
either as comments or as conditions recommended to be attached to 
the final ordinance. 


All land development projects are reviewed by City Engineering & 
Water Quality staff, Traffic Engineering & Operations staff, and the Land 
Development Office staff. In addition to the requirements of the City of 
Chattanooga Zoning Ordinance, all land development is further required 
to comply with current City of Chattanooga traffic regulations, building 
and development codes, storm water/water quality regulations, and 
the landscape ordinance. 
 
Additional requirements, if needed, are indicated by department below 
either as comments or as conditions recommended to be attached to 
the final ordinance. 


Immediate Site Considerations 
 
When looking at just the 190-acre site, the adjacent neighborhoods, 
and the immediate vicinity, the proposed development plan seems to 
address many of the important issues and concerns. The proposed site 
plan and conditions provide a mix of uses as envisioned by the 
Comprehensive Plan, and the pedestrian orientation of the retail 
component combined with more extensive buffering/landscaping 
promotes compatibility with adjoining neighborhoods. The 
configuration of the buildings to minimize grading along the primary 
ridge combined with the proposed recreational open space provides 
opportunities to conserve the site’s natural features. 
 
Regarding site accessibility, the proposed site design promotes planned 
development of the entire site with controlled access as opposed to 
individual strip centers with multiple access points, facilitating the plan 
goals of concentrating/clustering commercial development. The 
proposed development features one primary access point on Highway 
153 and a minor access point at Stone Ridge Drive. The staff would 
prefer that the site have another direct access point to Boy Scout Road 
to better distribute traffic that would access this development, and to 
minimize conflicting turning movements on Highway 153. As stated in 
the previous report, the site is not currently served by transit. 
 
The development proposal shows approximately 60 acres, or about 30% 
of the site dedicated to green areas and open space. This open space 
features community greens, landscaping of the parking lots, including 
trees and bioswales, and perimeter buffering is supportive of the 
Hixson-North River Community Plan goals to improve the appearance 
and control impacts of commercial development, incorporate 
community amenities into commercial development. 
 
The proposed site plan with the alignment of buildings along the slope 
to minimize grading and the recreational open space along the primary 
ridges is consistent with the Hixson Plan objectives for the Natural 
Environment (protect steep slopes, promote the asset value and 
usability of our natural areas). The applicant indicated in his proposal a 
commitment to retain the first 1 inch of rainfall within a 72 hour period 
within the commercial/office zones and the use of bio-swales in the 
parking lot areas of the site. Finally, the proposed village greens and 
natural open spaces would provide added park space. These amenities, 
appropriately defined by zoning conditions, will enhance the site’s 
existing natural features.


Long-Term and Area Wide Considerations 
 
Good planning practice and decision-making should also consider the 
long-term and area-wide implications of decisions, particularly for a 
large scale project such as this on community development patterns 
and the resulting transportation infrastructure improvement needs. It 
should be anticipated that approval of this request will likely lead to 
additional commercial/higher intensity development in the immediate 
area (there are several large tracts of land currently zoned R-1 that 
border the property to the rear, fronting on Boy Scout Road). This 
additional development will increase traffic within this area that will 
need to be appropriately managed through added street networks, 
road capacity improvements, and/or traffic management by the City of 
Chattanooga. 
 
It has been documented in the Hixson Area plan that the Dayton 
Boulevard/Highway 153 interchange is substandard and needs to be 
improved. This was a key consideration identified by the plan when 
considering the potential of this site for commercial development. 
Currently there are no plans to improve this interchange in the 
Chattanooga Capital budget, the Regional Transportation Plan or the 
Transportation Improvement Program. This area was also highlighted in 
both the current and proposed Regional Transportation Plan, and the 
2010 Congestion Management Plan as a congested area. 
 
 
The only currently planned/programmed improvements for this area 
are: 
 
? 2035 Plan: There is only one project planned for the year 2035 
in the current Long Range Transportation plan for this section of 
Hwy 153 (SR 153 Gothard Rd. to Dayton Blvd. Widening from 4 
to 6 Lanes which is planned to be constructed by the year 2035) 
 
? Proposed 2040 Plan (estimated future funds): The proposed 
2040 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) expected to be 
approved by FHWA, FTA, and EPA by March of 2014 also only 
includes the one project in the same section, but with slightly 
different termini (Widening from a 4-lane section to a 6-lane 
section from Stone Ridge to US-27 which is planned to be 
constructed by the year 2020); Transit - Expansion of bus routes 
2 and 28 to improve and provide new service to areas along 
Hwy 153 from Gadd Road to Northgate Mall, Chattanooga State 
Community College and Dayton Blvd/Red Bank (by 2030); 
Transit - New Bus-Rapid Transit (BRT) Line Soddy Daisy to Hamilton Place Area servicing U.S. 27 and Hwy 153, Northgate 
Mall, the Airport, and Hamilton Place Mall (by 2040) 
 
? Current 2014-2017 Transportation Improvement Program 
(committed funding): There are no transportation 
improvements in the TIP for this section of Hwy 153. 
 
 
The most significant of these proposed improvements is the planned 
widening of Highway 153 from 4 to 6 lanes (slated to occur in 2020). 
However, none of the listed improvements address the Dayton 
Boulevard/Highway 153 interchange or adding additional 
network/capacity within the local street networks surrounding this site. 
The draft 2040 Plan recognizes the need for a more integrated and 
multimodal system considering existing congestion and growth. This will 
be the first plan to fiscally constrain a number of new transit services 
for the region. 
 
It should be noted that the applicant has also proposed 
designing/improving the access points to the development site and the 
west bound approach portion of the Boy Scout Road intersection. 
 
However, these proposed improvements do not address the limited 
road network in the area (mostly two lane roads and limited networks 
to distribute traffic), or the Dayton Boulevard interchange. Staff is not 
suggesting that the applicant has the responsibility for making these 
improvements, only that ultimately the City would need to anticipate 
making these improvements to accommodate the consequential 
growth in traffic that would occur as development intensifies around 
this location. 
 
Compounding these challenges, the steep topography and areas of 
floodplain within this area limit opportunities to improve local roadway 
capacity or new networks to handle additional traffic that would occur 
if this area becomes a commercial center. 
 
Commercial growth in the right location can provide economic growth, 
fiscal revenues, and contribute to livability when thoughtful 
consideration is given to the short and long-term infrastructure 
demands for the area, the impact on critical natural features/systems 
and surrounding neighborhoods. The proposed site plan and conditions 
do address the immediate impacts to surrounding neighborhoods, and 
demonstrates sensitivity to the site’s existing features. However, due to 
the limited existing network within a topographically constrained area, 
and the fact that current road improvement plans do not account for 
improving the Dayton Boulevard – Highway 153 interchange or the local road network that would be impacted by more intense development 
patterns fostered by this proposal, the staff recommends denial of this 
request. 




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