published Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Hixson development could fare better with revisions

WHAT'S NEXT

A community meeting on Hillocks Farm is slated for Dec. 5 from 5-7 p.m. at Hixson United Methodist Church, 5301 Old Hixson Pike.

The latest plan to build one of the biggest developments ever in Chattanooga is slated to be rolled out next month, and officials give it a better chance for city approval than controversial past proposals.

A number of changes were crafted to address worries which had led to the rejection of the $100 million project by the City Council last January, some people familiar with the new proposal said Thursday.

The name also was changed -- from Chattanooga Village to Hillocks Farm -- on the development proposed off Highway 153 near Boy Scout Road.

Chattanooga developer Duane Horton, who's working for landowner Jack Lonus, is slated to unveil the new plan for the site at a Dec. 5 meeting at Hixson United Methodist Church from 5-7 p.m.

The latest plan keeps the proposed 280 apartments along with about 700,000 square feet of retail and office space, said Horton spokeswoman Robin Derryberry.

But, the buffer between the project and nearby neighborhoods has been widened from 50 feet to 100 feet, she said. Derryberry added that the hilltop at the 190-acre site "won't be touched." Concerns about the project had led to creation of a group dubbed "Don't Chop the Hilltop" earlier.

Other worries which fueled the fight from community members last January included traffic, stormwater runoff and need.

City Council Vice Chairman Chip Henderson, who has taken part in meetings between a nine-member community panel and Horton over the past four months, said the developer has addressed the concerns.

Henderson, who supported the meetings along with Councilmen Ken Smith and Jerry Mitchell, said they weren't trying to push the proposed project one way or another.

"We wanted the process to work," he said. "As it turns out, it seems like the developer has addressed concerns the committee had."

Ellie Wallis, who lives near the proposed development and serves on the panel, said Horton has taken a list of conditions developed during the last debate and improved on them.

She said the development group has compared Hillocks Farm to a mixed-used "rustic" project near Chapel Hill, N.C., called Fearrington Village, with which she is familiar.

"It's a really nice shopping center. A community is along side of it," Wallis said.

Derryberry said the elements of the latest proposal exceed city regulations in nearly every way.

The development group is "holding themselves to the highest standards...," she said.

Derryberry said the new name is rooted in faith and history. The term "hillock" is a hill often near a larger range or ridge referenced in the Bible. A farm was on the Hixson site, Derryberry said.

Horton's latest proposal will still need approval from the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Planning Commission and the City Council to move forward.

Horton originally proposed an apartment and commercial project for the site in 2011. But in April 2012, city planners recommended blocking the development. In November 2012, Horton filed a revamped proposal, and the Planning Commission approved it last December.

However, the Hixson proposal became a lightning rod, sparking almost two dozen, sometimes chippy public meetings, and it became one of the most costly and time-consuming city rezoning cases in years. It was defeated by the City Council in a 5-3 vote in January.

But none of five of members of the previous City Council who opposed Horton's last proposal are still on the council.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

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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