Leaders with the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission approved a controversial Hixson development Monday.
“We are very pleased with the outcome today, and we look forward to the next steps in this process,” developer Duane Horton of Scenic Land Company said in a prepared statement. “Today’s decision will allow us to move forward in creating a remarkable development that will significantly enhance the community.”
The $100 million project near Highway 153-Boy Scout Road has drawn criticism from some area residents and members of the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy, who are worried about stormwater runoff, the damage to the environment and traffic flow issues.
They say they oppose the development because of environmental, economic and public safety reasons.
They said that the empty property in Hixson should be revamped and repurposed instead of building new developments.
Opponents also said that developers have not been forthcoming enough in disclosing their plans.
In an email Monday from the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy, opposition leaders said they expected the commission to recommend delaying a vote on the rezone.
They said that Mayor Ron Littlefield made the deciding vote.
"Unfortunately, Mayor Littlefield himself chose to advocate strongly on behalf of the developer at the planning commission meeting today, despite clear, coherent and reasonable requests from the public and some planning commissioners to defer," according to the email. "Ultimately, the mayor himself was the deciding vote to circumvent adequate public process and approve the rezone request via an incomprehensible motion."
But project leaders said they have been taking steps to accommodate citizens' concerns.
Horton brought in Hart Howerton, a team of design and real estate professionals, as master planning design consultants, who have a history of creating plans for clients by listening to the needs of local neighborhoods, officials with the project said.
Last month—after reworking plans in an attempt to accommodate opposed citizens—developers submitted a rezoning request to the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission.
Horton filed the paperwork, an 11-page request that documents steps the team has taken to address community concerns, according to Nooga.com archives.
The resubmission came after Horton had previously attempted to move forward with the project, but withdrew the rezoning application in May to modify his plan further.
Now, Scenic Land Company leaders will go before the City Council in January for a final vote of approval.
A community meeting is scheduled for more discussion on the project on Dec. 11 at the Hixson Community Center at 6:30 p.m.
For more information about development opposition, click here.