published Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Planners reject letting Space House be a rental


by Brian Lazenby
Audio clip

James Farris

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission on Monday rejected plans to allow the owner of the Space House to continue using the landmark as a temporary vacation property.

James Farris, owner of the 1408 Palisades Road house, said he will make his case to the City Council on Sept. 8.

Mr. Farris had asked the Regional Planning Agency to rezone the property from R-1 to R-3, which would have allowed him to rent the house designed to look like a spaceship to vacationing tourists.

The agency recommended denying the R-3 zoning request in favor of awarding a special exception that would allow temporary tenants, but the commission voted unanimously to deny the exception after hearing from area residents opposed to the idea.

“I had been renting to families all over the country, many of whom were coming to Chattanooga just to stay in this house,” Mr. Farris told the commission. “I still get calls each month from people wanting to stay in the house.’

Richard “Dick” Clinton, a nearby resident, told the commission he is concerned about security, the building being a fire hazard because it only has one entrance and traffic on the narrow, winding road.

  • photo
    Chattanooga Times Free Press Staff File Photo
    The Space House sits on the side of Signal Mountain and is a well known Chattanooga landmark.

“This is a very quiet neighborhood, and we don’t want to deal with the noise and the partying,” he said. “(Mr. Farris) is renting to people with unknown character and background.”

Chattanooga City Councilwoman Deborah Scott asked the commission to recommend denying the request.

“I feel that this type of special permit would be inappropriate,” she said.

Mary Nell Moore, who lives on Palisades Road, expressed concern about the narrow road and children who often play near the street.

“I am strongly opposed to it — I just don’t want it,” she said. “I don’t want tourists running up and down our little, narrow, winding roads.”

Commissioner Vance Travis, who said he used to live in the area and knows the opponents, said commission members are called to put themselves in the residents’ shoes.

He made the motion to deny the request, which was seconded and supported by the remaining commissioners.

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KWVeteran said...

These are bigoted neighbors and use the flimsiest of reasons to thwart the change in zoning. Notice caring about "the children" but then the comment "I am strongly opposed to it--I just don't want it." Since when do people renting premises suddenly become boisterous and are characterless? I hope that the commissioners get off their phony conceit and vote to do the right thing.

August 11, 2009 at 7:23 a.m.
rolando said...

I've seen more than one "boisterous and characterless" party in and along that area...to say nothing of the reckless, speeding drivers testing their "driving skills" on those roads. And those are just the residents...

They just don't like the house, that's all. Pure and simple. "Fire hazard", "only one entrance", etc are prime examples. They want it torn down.

At the rent charged tourists, how characterless can they be?

August 11, 2009 at 7:43 a.m.
GreenKepi said...

Way to show your "true colors"...commissioners...!

August 11, 2009 at 7:45 a.m.
my2centstoo said...

Sounds like someone on the counsel may be just a wee bit jealous of a great idea.

August 11, 2009 at 9:34 a.m.
rdecredico said...

Typical provincial small-minds. They make up hypocritical excuses and do anything possible to prevent people from doing things simple because they don't like something.

Every house on that mountain is a fire hazard, considering.

August 11, 2009 at 9:35 a.m.
ladyvolz said...

Goodness, what a bunch of small minded whiny neighbors. No wonder the owner doesn't want to live in the neighborhood, but would rather rent out this unique home.

Their comments are laughable, they don't want a bunch of tourists running up and down their small streets? As if the homeowners themselves don't run up and down the streets? I guess next they need to make a new rule that homeowners cannot have guests over. No visitors at all. That will also keep extra vehicles off their small roads........

August 11, 2009 at 10:09 a.m.
Beamis said...

Zoning laws are just another form of tyranny that people use to thwart the private property rights of honest citizens. This is not a secluded or even quiet corner of the Scenic City but a heavily trafficked area that buzzes with noise and clatter day and night. These silly whiners have used the crooked zoning process to achieve a result that true respect for property rights would have never delivered.

What a bunch of elitist losers.

August 11, 2009 at 10:33 a.m.
TRAWLER said...

Shame Shame on the city government,,,,I thought the city was more open minded than this. Can't blame the neighbors for their concerns but the acting government should be looking out for the benefit to Chattanooga overall. A little more backbone would be nice.

August 11, 2009 at 11:49 a.m.
mscrivani said...

The last time I checked, unless the property is to re-zoned for multi-family use, or an unapproved building use change, then what laws tell a homeowner what the heck he can do with his/her property??? Does that mean ALL landlords are going to have to have govt approval to not live in their houses?? I say kudos to the owner for a least trying not to have yet another foreclosure on our market.Also, if I were him, I would contact any and all news stations ,to pressure the govt. to leave private homeowners alone...Oh yeah HGTV would love hearing about the homes new found problems with the Chattanooga govt. I say paint it to look like a VW hubcap from space and rent it to the executives....

August 11, 2009 at 1:47 p.m.
crogers said...

"Unknown character?" You get that anytime you get new neighbors. If there are undesirables, they will be gone in a day or two, rather than permanent fixtures in the neighborhood. I think at $195/night, you probably won't get many raucous tenants anyway. But who could hear them over the traffic that flies up and down the mountain anyway. Or better yet, the 18-wheelers that flip on that curve. I dare say that ANY homeowner on that street who could get $5,850/month($195/night x 30), would do so in a heartbeat! Let's be reasonable and support someone who is using this home at it's highest and best use.

August 11, 2009 at 2:32 p.m.
wareagleash said...

"said commission members are called to put themselves in the residents’ shoes." - its like they are the pilgrims and just crossed the Atlantic. This is the dumbest vote I've ever seen. I've been out of the party scene for awhile but last time I checked Signal Mtn wasn't on the list. Why deny a beautiful city more tourists and revenue. I have to agree with crogers if that guy is getting $195 he's most likely not getting the folks from the local Knights Inn

August 11, 2009 at 8:09 p.m.
SCOTTYM said...

Seems that our local group of tyrants are really digging in deep.

Everyone needs to bear these types of decisions in mind when we vote. Mr. Farris is getting the shaft this time, but what happens when the local powers that be start telling the rest of us homeowners what we can not do, or worse yet, what we must do, with our property.

If I were Mr. Farris, I might just paint my spaceship house hot pink and hang bright flashing lights on it for after dark. I'd maybe put up a big sign in the yard that would read " My neighbors are anti-tourist, anti-business, anti-private property rights NIMBYs", I'm sure they would just LOVE that.

August 11, 2009 at 8:37 p.m.
streetsmart said...

I guess when you bigots go on vacation, the locals should worry about your character. As for the speeders screaming up and down the curvy mountain road , you should keep close tabs on your own kids.

August 12, 2009 at 6:02 a.m.
sunnydelight said...

GOD! I'm so glad I don't live on the mountain. What a bunch of miserable prudes. Things of this nature is why Prices for services are automatically increased when a Signal Mountain phone number shows up on the caller ID. If you don't believe that your naive.

August 12, 2009 at 6:47 a.m.
ChattBrian said...

That is very noble of Mr.Clinton to be worried about the building being a fire hazard; I am sure he has been worried for years about the residents who have lived there. Maybe we should shut down everything on Lookout too, there are some windy roads there and we don't want any tourists driving on those roads. Allow it to be a rental commisioners - it is the right thing to do and what is best for this city.

August 13, 2009 at 7:09 p.m.
reader said...

The acerbic and rather uncharitable tone of every single comment (up to the August 13, 2009, 7:09 entry) leads me to suspect that perhaps some of these entries might just have been solicited by parties with a vested interest in the Space House. The hostile and sarcastic tone of the comments, thus far, contributes absolutely nothing to this debate and only serves to insult the genuine concerns of the neighborhood residents. (Perhaps if these critics were residents of this neighborhood, their perspective might be a bit different.) I think it fair to say that if ALL the comments continue to be negative (and so vitriolic) that perhaps we are really not having a GENUINE debate here. As a final comment to the individual who expressed gratitude at not having to live on this mountain... as one who has lived in a number of locations throughout this country, I find Signal Mountain to be one of the nicest and most beautiful places in which I have been blessed to live. Such comments as posted by this person, I fear, unwittingly reveal a rather limited perspective.

August 14, 2009 at 1:27 p.m.
SCOTTYM said...

reader,

What you refer to as "uncharitable" comments may in fact be the majority opinion. Mr. Farris is being denied free use of his own property. Many of us do not like that sort of thing.

Are you perhaps the kind of person who feels that arbitrary rules concerning private property are a good thing?

As for "solicited" comments, I'm not really sure how that would work. Would we get paid per performance, like the shills who always show up at rallies in favor of big gov initiatives? Or would it be more like the big gov operatives who are paid hourly to troll websites and blogs and post pro-totalitarian/anti-freedom diatribes as a way to keep the plebeian riff-raff in line?

Are you perhaps a close neighbor of Mr.Farris? Did we offend your tender statist sensibilities?

If so, tough beans.

August 14, 2009 at 2:16 p.m.
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