On Thursday, May 2, the Chattanooga Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency posted its recommendation to the Chattanooga Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission to deny the rezoning of the Lines Orchids property in Walden based on development plans proposed on behalf of LOP, LLC. The handwriting was on the wall, and by Monday, May 6, LOP, LLC had withdrawn its applications for commercial rezoning and a special permit for the supersized Regional Supermarket, office/retail building, fuel station, and large parking lot. The RPA did its homework and came to the right conclusion.
It is impossible to ignore the facts of this development and how they do not stack up against the requirements for considering such a rezoning. The facts just aren’t with the development plan or anything remotely similar. The RPA looked at the Walden’s Ridge Plateau Area Plan (Plan) for guidance and concluded that the development was not compatible with “important character elements” including “compact site design with less emphasis on parking.” The proposed development is simply not consistent with the Plan or the Walden Zoning Ordinance.
The RPA commented that the Plan actually calls for two specific sections of the development site to be designated for restricted development “due to their steepness and typical soil characteristics.” There were reasons for that restriction, and we plateau residents would be smart to understand them. While the RPA acknowledged commercial use at the Lines Orchids site might “be compatible with other commercial uses nearby,” it continued on to note that nearby commercial buildings were small scale (around 7,900 sf) and that the development plan “is not typical for this area, and is not compatible with the surrounding character.” The RPA also noted potential for nuisances to nearby residences. I’m thinking noise and light pollution, traffic congestion in and out of the Timesville neighborhood, and storm water runoff, to name a few. These are our neighbors. Would we want this type of development in our backyards?
One other important consideration by the RPA was the fact that this type of development would set a precedent for more commercial development in this area. The RPA does not recommend expanding commercial uses here until there is an updated land use plan because of "the limited infrastructure, existing tree cover and rural vistas, and small-scale development form of the area."
All of these reasons are why LOP, LLC withdrew its applications. But, we should not assume that we have seen the last of them or their Big Box. In fact, just this past week, even after the developer withdrew its applications, there have been posts on Facebook to continue signing their petition in favor of the development and even an ad in the May 8 Chattanooga Times Free Press Community News touting that the development will “reduce wear-and-tear on our roads.” How’s that going to happen? Are they going to use helicopters rather than 18-wheelers to bring in their goods? The ad also claims that it will “encourage additional improvement in an area that needs it.” Maybe with more Big Box stores? One of my neighbors even got a phone call survey after the fact about the proposed Regional Supermarket. Plus, they’re still encouraging a letter campaign for a project that that they withdrew. Hmmmm. Makes you wonder.
Please consider the opposition petition and if you agree, please sign it. Also anyone can send an email to Walden Town Hall to express opposition at email@example.com and attend the Walden Town Board meeting this coming Tuesday, May 14, at 6:30 p.m. This is far from over, and our voice is important in protecting this mountaintop.