published Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Opponents criticize Hixson project

Gregory Vickrey, center, of the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy and Hixson resident Linden Stricker, right, behind the camera, talk with, from left, developer Duane Horton and John Bridger executive director of the Chattanooga Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency, as they unsuccessfully try to attend a meeting at the Business Development Center on Wednesday in downtown Chattanooga. Vickrey and Stricker are opposed to Horton's plans to build a proposed retail, office and apartment complex near Highway 153 and Boy Scout Road.
Gregory Vickrey, center, of the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy and Hixson resident Linden Stricker, right, behind the camera, talk with, from left, developer Duane Horton and John Bridger executive director of the Chattanooga Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency, as they unsuccessfully try to attend a meeting at the Business Development Center on Wednesday in downtown Chattanooga. Vickrey and Stricker are opposed to Horton's plans to build a proposed retail, office and apartment complex near Highway 153 and Boy Scout Road.
Photo by John Rawlston.

IF YOU GO

* What: Public meeting on major Hixson development off Highway 153

* When: Today at 6:30 p.m.

* Where: Hixson Community Center at the former Hixson Middle School, 5400 School Drive.

A Chattanooga developer said he's working on resubmitting a plan for a major commercial and apartment project in Hixson, but opponents Wednesday worried about traffic, erosion and water runoff.

"Neighborhoods will suffer a loss of property values," said Gregory Vickrey, executive director of the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy and a member of the "Don't Chop the Hilltop" group.

Developer Duane Horton, president of Scenic Land Co., said the new plan will be "a significant change" when it's offered at a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the community center in the former Hixson Middle School.

"There are 13 major items which were addressed," he said.

Horton said he was surprised by criticism leveled Wednesday by people who had not viewed the new plan.

Horton late last year proposed building a 280-unit apartment complex and 763,000 square feet of commercial space on a 190-acre site near state Highway 153 and U.S. Highway 27. But he withdrew a rezoning request earlier this year amid questions.

Hixson resident Linden Stricker said there's more than 625,000 square feet of vacant retail structures in the Hixson area. Also, there are more than 80 acres of available land already zoned for redevelopment, he said.

"That's nearly enough to create another Northgate Mall," Stricker said.

A big new development could create a lot of empty storefronts, he said.

"We're worried it will look like Rossville Boulevard or Ringgold Road," Stricker said.

Vickrey and Stricker were blocked from a meeting between the developer and city planners on Wednesday.

When opponents tried to enter the meeting at the city's Development Resource Center downtown, they were told by John Bridger, the city-county Regional Planning Agency's executive director, that it was for planning staff, and the pair were asked to leave. The Don't Chop the Hilltop group contended Horton has been meeting secretly with planners and elected officials.

Horton said Wednesday's meeting was "purely a technical meeting with engineers and experts" and there were no public officials present.

Stricker said he'd like to see Horton's plan sharply scaled back.

"We're sorely against cutting the top off the mountain," he said about the hilly site.

Stricker said Chattanooga developer CBL & Associates Properties Inc. has bought Northgate Mall and recently announced a major revamp. CBL said it would add a Ross Dress for Less and a Michaels Arts and Crafts store on the mall site. In addition, CBL plans to renovate the inside of the mall and improve its main entrance as part of the work it has envisioned for the shopping center it bought last year.

Vickrey questioned Horton's record as a developer and whether he could meet environmental standards related to the project.

"Our expectations are low," he said.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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