Last year, I attended several meetings and hearings regarding the potential rezoning of a 190-acre parcel of land on Highway 153 that Scenic Land Company planned to develop. As a board member of the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy, I joined with many citizens of Hixson to voice our opposition for the development due to concerns over traffic safety, water quality, and community character. My primary concern centered on the protection of North Chickamauga Creek, which runs adjacent to the proposed development.
We, the opposition, packed the hearings, and when the Council voted to reject the request to rezone, we celebrated a victory and hoped that the future use of the land would reflect the plans and the spirit of the community. While we realized the inevitability of development, we insisted that the city take a careful approach and avoid “rubber stamping” a deleterious project.
On Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2014, I sat in the same chamber at City Hall with a much smaller crowd and watched the council unanimously approve the rezoning of the parcel of land on 153 to open the way for the Scenic Land Company to develop the property.
Jerry Jones, a former opponent of Scenic Land Company, stood and spoke in favor of the development and the developer, Duane Horton. He pointed out that the Horton had created a new plan that met or exceeded the many conditions that the community put forward to guide the development.
Since I agree with Mr. Jones, I would like to thank several parties for creating something that is too scarce these days: compromise. Councilmen Chip Henderson, Jerry Mitchell, and Ken Smith organized an advisory group that represented the varied interests of community, the Hixson Community Review Committee. Ellie Wallis, executive director of the NCCC, served as an advocate for North Chickamauga Creek and her fellow residents of Hixson. These folks spent many hours drafting conditions for the developer and discussing how the community would prefer the development to move forward. When presented with the conditions, Duane Horton of Scenic Land Company worked assiduously to produce a plan that adhered to the conditions, and Jack Lonas, the landowner, funded consultations and studies that drastically improved the character of the proposed development.
Over the period of a year, a contentious debate became a pleasing compromise, but it did not come without a lot of hard work. Thanks to the diligent work of Councilmen Henderson, Mitchell, and Smith, and the Hixson Community Review Committee, the citizens of Hixson gained a strong voice in the debate, and we appreciate that Mr. Lonas and Mr. Horton honored the wishes of their neighbors.
As noted by the Council, concerns remain over the 153/Dayton Boulevard interchange, and as the development proceeds, the NCCC will continue to monitor the impact on the community and the creek However, the SLC satisfied the conditions for the rezone, and for that, we are grateful.