Tuesday, September 2, 2014 · 10:02 a.m.
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About a dozen people and half a dozen news media heard concerned community members speak out against a Hixson development Wednesday afternoon. (Photo: Staff)

A group of citizens expressed opposition to a proposed Highway 153 development Wednesday in a press conference outside downtown's Development Resource Center, where leaders met inside to discuss traffic details for the project. 

If you go

What: Meeting about 153-area Hixson development

When: Thursday, Nov. 1, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Hixson Community Center

"Our problems with this proposed development are many, not the least of which is that they want to remove the hill," Gregory Vickrey with the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy said at the press conference. 

Vickrey and Hixson resident Linden Stricker, who is a retired banker, spoke to media and about a dozen other interested citizens about the 190-acre tract of land along Highway 153 from Stoneridge Drive to Boy Scout Road. 

Duane Horton, developer and president of Scenic Land Company, has plans to turn the land into a multiuse development for residential, office, shopping, dining and recreational purposes.

The 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, according to Nooga.com archives

But, in May, Horton also withdrew his rezoning application for the project so that he could modify his plan, he said Wednesday. 

He has been reworking the project since then. 

Gregory Vickrey with the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy attempted to get into a meeting with the developer of the Highway 153 project and traffic experts Wednesday. Leaders in the meeting said it was a "working meeting" and not open to the public. (Photo: Staff)

"The proposed multiuse development we are doing should have much less impact," he said Wednesday. 

Horton met with city and state traffic experts Wednesday at about the same time that community members held the opposition press conference. 

Vickrey said that he and others in opposition want input on the project and that Horton is "stonewalling" them. They attempted to get into the traffic meeting, but Horton and others there told them—as half a dozen media members watched—it was not an open meeting. 

A city spokesman said that the public is not entitled to come to every meeting involving this sort of project. Public meetings are typically advertised as such or involve elected officials who are bound by the Sunshine Law. 

The $100 million project has the potential to generate $2 million in city and tax revenue and create 1,000 jobs, Horton said in May, according to Nooga.com archives. 

Horton said he and his team are preparing to release more information on the project that will be ready Wednesday or Thursday. 

He also said there is a public meeting in Hixson tomorrow on the topic. 

"It is open, but it's primarily focused on [people with] property surrounding the proposed development," Horton said.

Opposition leaders said tomorrow's meeting is a vain attempt to engage the public and encouraged anyone interesting in the development to attend the meeting. 

Those who oppose the development do so for environmental, economic and public safety reasons, they said. 

They are concerned about stormwater runoff, the damage to the environment and traffic flow issues. They said that the empty property in Hixson should be revamped and repurposed instead of building new developments. 

The project has been compared to Hamilton Place, but in May, Horton said that wasn't an apt comparison. 

People who oppose the project said the changes to the hillside would be dramatic, but Horton disagrees and has said that they won’t be.

Stricker said his bottom line is that he wants input into the project.

"We know we can't stop development cold, but we would like to have some negotiation as to what would be acceptable to us," he said. "If we sit down with them and look them in the eye and they say, 'We're not going to do that, we're going to do it our way,' well, at least they sat down with us, and then it's up to the City Council." 

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