Wanting A Publix That Better Suits The Location And Community - And Response (2)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

In his opinion piece, “Quit Embarrassing Us,” Rox Exum misses the point. He writes, “I cannot speak for those who oppose the renewal of South Broad Street but…what is puzzling to me is…why more don’t embrace it and join in what our overall community needs the most: our encouragement.”

No one who opposes the Publix development in its proposed form opposes the renewal of South Broad Street. Indeed, a primary reason that we oppose a suburban-style Publix is because it would stifle the kind of development we want long-term on South Broad.

Quite specifically, it flies in the face of South Broad Street Study and the vision for South Broad that City Council adopted earlier this year after months of community input and with the support of those Mr. Exum recognizes as “visionaries."

The Atlanta-based developer for the project wishes to take the easy and more profitable way out rather than creating a setting that will benefit Chattanooga long-term. What we want is a mixed-use development that promotes higher employment and increased property tax revenues and potentially includes affordable housing. The same type of development more responsible developers have partnered with Publix to create in similar settings throughout the Southeast.

A Publix on South Broad will happen regardless of the votes of the Board of Zoning Appeals, the Regional Planning Commission, or the City Council. Publix knows it’s a gold mine of a location. So hold the developer to a higher standard.

People like Roy Exum who want Publix no matter what simply end up mortgaging our future and derailing the long-term promise for South Broad. Is it really an embarrassment that there are those of us who want a Publix that better suits the location and is better for our city?                                    

Jim Johnson
Chattanoogans for Responsible Development

* * * 

Mr. Johnson writes well his stance on logical development on South Broad Street. This city has a long history of enjoying community input into planning processes and then caving in to developers. It's one thing to have multiple developers go by standards and grow a community. It is another to have those follow the rules and have one come in and say we are above them.

We have in Lookout Valley one giant store with a grocery component, a strip mall adjacent, and two strip malls that have all but withered as their anchor tenant groceries died after that giant box opened. I voiced opposition to the giant box in Lookout Valley and enjoyed a huge win, construction was delayed 30 days. One advisor to then Mayor Corker called it sales tax reallocation as tax coffers did not fill so much as they changed the place of source. So this fine hill with a huge stand of hickory trees became asphalt prairie with crowds of cars  and trucks and retail therapy.

If you want to see how progress gets done in Chattanooga look at the rule book and look at the variance log of all the places that need a break from rules to plant here. One huge box got located in a conservation area, no one cares about that, besides the legal outcome of that was rendered confidential by the party that paid out.

I for one agree, if you are going to set design standards go by them or don’t draw forward thinking people to feel they have a say then yank the rug out. A good case in point are retail signage height standards. The really tall signs got there by variance. Obviously here in Lookout Valley the pigeons need hawks to have high roosts that are man-made, and garish signs planted atop to lure unsuspecting flat landers to buy fuel, bad food or whatever. 

As for that other writer's tantalizing taunt that the two lane width rail underpasses are in planning for widening, show me the drawings.  I doubt they exist. I’d be surprised the engineer who will approve them is even out of elementary school, much less in college.  

Prentice Hicks

* * * 

Did I miss something? It’s almost as if the author envisioned that the property was owned by the community at large. I thought the property where the proposed Publix may be located was owned by private individuals…you know….as in “private property”? Instead, the bulk of the commentary has phrases like “What we want is a mixed-use development that promotes higher employment,” “increased property tax revenues,” and “potentially includes affordable housing.”

Admittedly those are lofty goals and it would be great if they could just happen.  In fact, they are just awesome…..to that end, I’d like an F-18 for my own use,  mandatory happy hour at Flying Squirrel every afternoon, and a month of paid vacation somewhere in the Caribbean with a sailboat piloted by UGA cheerleaders.  Unfortunately, as much as I’d like it, I can’t have it unless I can buy it (also it would likely involve excessive future purgatory time).

Again, I may have just fallen off the turnip truck but the phrase, “The Atlanta-based developer for the project wishes to take the easy and more profitable way out rather than creating a setting that will benefit Chattanooga long-term” sounds a bit as if the author thinks that a developer somehow takes on a tremendous financial risk so that that he can provide an altruistic avocado toast heaven for the community at large and do so at a loss. As such, it will likely come as a shock but profit is not only why a developer does a project, but profit is also not a dirty word. Profit is where taxes come from, profit is why companies exist, profit is the lifeblood of a capitalistic society.

In the end, if the goal is to keep South Broad looking like South Broad currently looks, then go ahead and set the bar higher and higher for a developer by making it more and more expensive to build there. Make sure that there is no possible way the developer can make a return commensurate with the risk, time, money and effort that it takes to develop a project.

There is always another possibility; perhaps those that want to put Kumbaya South on the property can pool their money, go to the property owner and purchase the property. Then they can build their Shangri-La development complete with employees making  $100,000 a year, free housing and a grocery store with nonfat, skinny, soy lattes that only serves people in yellow vests. Hmm…but then there’s that pesky formula that says “revenue must exceed cost of goods sold..”  But that’s likely too bourgeoisie to consider.

Arch Willingham



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