The Planning Commission on Monday recommended approval for allowing 12-story buildings by the riverfront in the major new development getting underway at the former Alstom property.
The staff of the Regional Planning Agency had recommended denial, saying there earlier had been a six-story limit set further back from the Tennessee River.
The final decision will be by the City Council.
Jimmy White, who heads the ambitious "The Bend" project, urged the approvals for the new section of the Form Based Code. He said the group could proceed much faster with fewer rules in place for it to deal with.
City Councilman Darrin Ledford said "The Bend will be a transformational project for Chattanooga. This is monumental."
He added, "I never expected to see a project of this scope in Chattanooga."
Nathan Bird, who is helping plan the project, said there would be park space between clusters of tall buildings near the waterfront.
The Bend developers recently acquired a new 41-acre property that will be the site of a marina.
This was the position of the planning staff:
"Based on the recommendations from the Downtown Plan and prior zoning case history with conditions limiting height along the river to a maximum building height of 6 stories, the scale of development (12 stories maximum/150’maximum height) proposed by the new B-R-12 Zone along the river is inappropriate for this area. Staff has concerns that approving this scale of development at this location will set a precedent for other large sites, and could have an adverse impact on the density and economic viability of the downtown core. It also will impact the view of the Tennessee River with 12 story buildings located along the waterfront. Staff does support the proposed urban form (buildings close to the street), parks, and mix of uses for this location.
"Staff recommends the River Context with the R-RF Riverfront Zone instead of the proposed B-R-12 zone because it will allow for a smaller scale mixed-use development that will be less impactful to the adjacent residential uses and will preserve the Tennessee River view shed. The intent of the River Context is to permit medium to high intensity residential and tourist areas
with multi-family housing being the dominate use. Commercial activity is limited to mixed use in multi-family residential buildings and hotels. The R-RF Riverfront Zone protects the river views and has lower building heights with building heights limited to a maximum of 6 stories or 85’. The Downtown Plan, the Westside District does not address maximum building heights along the river. Based on the public views expressed during the Form Based Code public process for a desire for lower building heights, staff would recommend a new public planning process to establish public policy for maximum building heights desired along this section of the river.
"Staff recommends the adopted R-RF Riverfront Zone for the site as well as extending it down south of the site to other properties along the river. There will need to be another larger public planning process in order to do something different based on the adopted plans and vision for the area. Approving the R-RF Zone will also help with enforcement consistency and reduce unintended consequences because the standards have already been written and implemented by developers and City staff."