published Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Proposed $100 million Hixson development project may be revived

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HIXSON COMMUNITY REVIEW COMMITTEE

Mike Baskette, Charles Elliott, Jeff Holden, Jerry Jones, Donald Kane, Suzanne Keith, David Queen, Mary Lou Vaught, and Ellie Wallis

IF YOU GO

• What: Hixson Community Review Committee meeting

• When: 5:30 p.m. today

• Where: Hixson Recreation Center, (the former Hixson Middle School), 5400 School Drive

A proposed $100 million mixed-use development in Hixson that was voted down by the City Council in January could emerge again.

Developer Duane Horton said Tuesday he is looking at options for the 190-acre tract off Highway 153 and Boy Scout Road, and the Chattanooga Village apartment and commercial project is one of those under consideration.

Under the city's guidelines, a proposal on the site could be submitted as early as next month, he said.

"We're evaluating all the options," Horton said.

Today, a newly formed nine-member community panel set up by three City Council members to discuss Hixson development is set to meet and take up the Highway 153 site.

Council Vice Chairman Chip Henderson said he and fellow Councilmen Jerry Mitchell and Ken Smith each appointed three members to the Hixson Community Review Committee to help give them input on possible development in the area. The group, which has met once, includes people who are involved in Hixson neighborhood associations or other entities, he said.

Henderson recalled that Chattanooga Village was "a hot topic." He said the process by which Horton sought approval "looked like it was a little bit flawed."

Horton had proposed building up to 280 apartments, 500,000 square feet of retail space and 250,000 square feet of offices on the tract owned by Chattanoogan Jack Lonas. Horton said the project would have created 2,000 jobs and spurred $2 million in annual real estate taxes.

The effort to gain rezoning from the Planning Commission and then approval from the City Council packed meetings with critics who rallied under the "Don't Chop the Hilltop" banner, as well as supporters of the proposal.

In January, the City Council voted 5-3 against Chattanooga Village, with one member not present. However, since that time, a city election has recast the council's makeup. All of the panel's members who voted "no" are no longer on the City Council.

Ellie Wallis, who lives near the Highway 153 site and is a member of the review committee, said she hopes Horton learned from the lengthy Chattanooga Village approval experience.

Wallis, who opposed the Chattanooga Village project in January, said Horton needed to gather community input about such concerns as traffic and sewers.

"He needs to come with plans and resolve issues ahead of time -- before he files something," she said. "I hope he comes to the table with humility and a willingness to work with people trying to work with him and do what's best for the community."

Horton said the way the property is currently zoned, builders could place four houses per acre on the site.

"The way it's zoned now is ... an option, or is there something that's better," he said, adding he wants to talk with community members and determine the site's best use. "We're going in with no agenda. We're opening up the dialogue."

Wallis said one factor that needs consideration is updating the Hixson North River Community Plan put together by Planning Commission staff. She said it's supposed to be refreshed every five years, but seven or eight years have passed.

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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