Thursday, December 18, 2014 · 6:06 p.m.

Hixson developer to withdraw rezoning request on controversial project

Property owner says he supports development, others still in opposition

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The North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy has organized efforts to prevent the land from being damaged by development, although the developer said there won't be a major impact to the land. (Photo: Contributed)

Developer of the controversial, 190-acre, multiuse development in Hixson has plans to withdraw the rezoning application that leaders were set to discuss at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

“We are withdrawing to discuss how the property should be best used for development,” Duane Horton, developer and president of Scenic Land Company, said.

The Scenic Land Company is the project coordinator for the 190-acre site, located in north Hixson adjacent to Highway 153.

Horton made his intentions for withdrawing known to Chattanooga City Councilwoman Pam Ladd late last week, according to a news release.

Background

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He wants to build a “multiuse” development for residential, office, shopping, dining and recreational purposes. His original plan called for about 250 apartments, 250,000 square feet of commercial office space and stand-alone parcels for retail and dining surrounded by pedestrian-friendly green space.

But that required a rezoning.

The $100 million project is drawing opposition from the North Hixson Neighborhood Association and North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy because of its scope, cost and impact on traffic and infrastructure.

Horton said there is a lot of misinformation going around and that he needs to spend more time working with the community on the plans. 

He does plan to resubmit a rezoning proposal, he said. 

Frank Eaton, president of the North Hixson Neighborhood Association, said, in reaction to the news of the withdrawal that it seems obvious that the development plan didn’t have support.

“The North Hixson Neighborhood Association and other stakeholders will look forward to seeing a plan describing a development that respects the character of our Hixson community and its residents and the natural resources that we treasure,” he said. “We don't need to add commercial space at the expense of our neighborhoods and environmental resources.”

Despite asking for the withdrawal, Horton maintained the current plan, which he has agreed to refine, was confluent with the Regional Planning Association’s goals.

“We reviewed the Hixson Community Plan and noted that our proposed project is directly meeting five of the seven goals for commercial properties and is indirectly assisting with the other two,” Horton said.

Jack and Carolyn Lonas own the 190 acres, and Jack said in a prepared statement that he feels the plan is excellent and that he stands behind the developer.

“I’ve been involved in one of the largest developments in our area—Windstone—and my wife and I decided a development would be the best use of our property,” Lonas said. “We looked for good developers, and we came up with Duane and Scenic Land. We think the plan will be good for Hixson and the city of Chattanooga, and it [will] bring additional revenues to the city and the county."

Jack and Mack Lonas, twin brothers, were part of the original developers of the 500-acre Windstone. He and Mack also developed Stonehenge, a 115-acre, high-end property located in Hamilton County.

He also said that the project is purely private.

“We are not asking for any public money to finance this project, though our city and county have certainly aided other projects in our community,” he said.

Gregory Vickrey with the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy said last week that his organization is against the rezoning request and the development for “environmental, economic and public safety reasons.”

Monday he said that the withdrawal of a rezoning request is "a clear sign Hixson residents have been heard loud and clear.

"But at this point it is nothing more than a request," he said. "City Council must still take this under consideration at Tuesday night's meeting. So we encourage everyone opposed to this project to turn out, as planned, in force. As a community we will continue to speak out and make sure the right path is taken."

Updated @ 3:31 p.m. on 05/07/12 to add more information as it became available.

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