Planning Staff Recommends Denial On Rezoning Request For Publix At St. Elmo

Monday, June 4, 2018

The staff of the Regional Planning Agency is recommending that the Planning Commission deny a rezoning request for a Publix at the foot of Lookout Mountian at St. Elmo.

The request for the four-acre site of the former Mount Vernon Restaurant is to go from UGC-Urban General Commercial Zone to C-2 Convenience Commercial Zone.

Planners said they would like to see a development in an urban form up close to the street rather than the traditional grocery "big box" layout.

At a recent community meeting in St. Elmo, Mike Price, speaking for developer George Chase, said UGC won't work because it has a 12,000 square foot limit and Publix needs a 32,000-square-foot store. 

The case goes before the Planning Commission on Monday at 1 p.m. at the County Commission.

The final decision will be by the City Council.

Here are RPA staff comments: 

(From the Chattanooga Department of Transportation) The proposed C-2 zoning and site plan causes safety concerns to the forthcoming Riverwalk extension along St. Elmo Avenue and increased pedestrian and bicycle activity along other street frontages. CDOT supports staff recommendation to maintain the existing UGC zoning, as it promotes urban form and animated sidewalks. In essence, development form under UGC zoning is generally more conducive to increased pedestrian and bicycle activity. The submitted site plan and
its associated curb cuts, does not imply approval of the proposed curb cuts at the permitting level.COMPATIBILITY WITH ADOPTED PLANS

The 2003 South Broad Redevelopment Plan recommends a walkable, pedestrian-friendly, mixed use development with urban setbacks and interior block shared  parking at this “town center” location.

Based on the South Broad Redevelopment Plan, the entire South Broad corridor was rezoned in 2015 to UGC-Urban General Commercial Zone, which promotes “traditional urban development with multi-story buildings built close to the sidewalk and a mix of uses within each site and within individual buildings.”

An excerpt from a handout distributed by the South Broad Redevelopment Group
during the process to rezone to UGC-Urban General Commercial Zone stated the
following:


“All of these proposed changes [Riverwalk, City street enhancements] promote
pedestrian activity and the South Broad community’s vision, but current zoning [C-2
and M-1] remains an obstacle.”

The proposed development form and zone would not be compatible with this
recommended urban, walkable, mixed-used pattern of development.

COMPATIBILITY WITH ADJACENT LAND USES

The proposed use would be compatible with the adjacent retail, industrial and residential uses.

COMPATABILITY WITH DEVELOPMENT FORM

While the proposed development and zoning may be compatible with the existing development form, the adopted South Broad Redevelopment Plan calls for an urban form for new development. The proposed development form and zone would not be consistent with this recommended urban form.

In addition, an extension of the Tennessee Riverwalk is planned for this area which will directly abut this site on the west, making the walkability of this site even more important. The City of Chattanooga also recently installed pedestrian crosswalks at the intersection of Broad St. and St. Elmo Ave. in an effort to promote pedestrian activity in this area. A suburban development form with parking in front and multiple curb cuts would not be compatible with this desired pedestrian environment.

COMPATABILITY WITH INFRASTRUCTURE & NATURAL RESOURCE SYSTEMS
South Broad Street is a Principal Arterial which would support the proposed use. The
site is within the 500-year floodplain.

The proposed rezoning zoning is not compatible with the community’s vision of a mixed use, walkable development pattern outlined in the South Broad Redevelopment Plan and in the 2015 Broad Street zoning study. The zoning study identified the UGC-Urban General Commercial Zone as the most appropriate zone for this area based on its intent and standards that promote urban, multi-modal, walkable commercial development patterns. The preamble to the 2015 zoning change states the following:

“WHEREAS, the South Broad area is planned for traditional urban development with multi-story buildings and a mix of uses intended to provide a concentration of goods and services that attract commerce within a walkable urban environment while also building on the natural assets of the river, creeks and mountains; and 

WHEREAS, South Broad is experiencing new growth and investment due to extension of the Riverwalk and other transportation infrastructure and is in need of zoning that is more in keeping with the South Broad plan vision for a town center destination that is walkable and safe; and

WHEREAS, the current zoning regulations [C-2 and M-1] do not include standards that relate well to the urban environment desired.”Additionally, the South Broad Redevelopment Plan identifies this specific location as a gateway for St. Elmo, South Broad, and Chattanooga’s downtown.

The proposed use of a grocery store would be allowed and appropriate in the UGC zone if built in an urban development form.

If the concern with the UGC Zone is the building footprint size, the appropriate process would be to file an application with the Regional Planning Agency to request a standard deviation from the maximum building size as described in the UGC Zone. The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission may grant deviations from the maximum building mass requirements, and the building setbacks, if the applicant presents an alternative that complies with the stated intent, goals
and general standards of the UGC Zone.

The site directly abuts the Riverwalk expansion that is meant to provide pedestrian and cyclist access throughout the urban core. The requested C-2 Zone and the proposed development pattern are not compatible with that increased pedestrian activity.

The proposed development form is not compatible with the recent City investment in crosswalks and bike lanes at South

Broad St. and St. Elmo Ave which are intended to promote pedestrian activity.

Building placement is a long term investment. It sets a precedent for the form of an area. The requested C-2 zone is intended to create a suburban commercial corridor development pattern which is not consistent with the community’s adopted vision for this area. Many grocery stores have built “urban” stores in other cities.


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