Members of the planning commission voted to delay a decision about rezoning an area on South Broad Street, where a Publix may be built. (Photo: Logan Garrett)

Officials decided this week to delay a vote about a South Broad Street rezoning request regarding a “high-end grocery store.”

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission is putting off the decision for 60 days.

The request centers around the site of the old Mt. Vernon restaurant that could be the home of a new grocery store, which is widely believed to be a Publix.

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The developer said he put in the request for a zoning change to create more flexibility for site plans because the property’s topography and geometry pose a design challenge.

“[It’s an] irregularly shaped triangle site, which makes it a little difficult [to put] a building right up against the street,” MAP Engineers Civil Engineer Derek Blackwood said during the commission meeting.

The current zoning for the site requires that buildings be situated close to the curbside to accommodate pedestrian traffic.

The proposed zoning would allow the developer to keep the building back from the street and add more parking, making the site a little more car-friendly and potentially less inviting to pedestrians.

This is what led several residents, who want the area to invite pedestrian traffic, to attend the commission meeting to oppose the rezoning and file a petition against the request earlier this month.

“I want to talk about what we want Chattanooga to be like,” St. Elmo resident Lauren Dunn said during the meeting. “Is this street going to be like Cherokee Boulevard or the rest of Broad Street…or areas like Dayton Boulevard…where we have empty big box stores that are now nothing or a rotating Halloween store?”

Planning staff also recommended the rezoning denial, in part, because the proposal isn’t compatible with the vision of mixed-use, walkable development that’s outlined in the South Broad Redevelopment Plan and in the 2015 Broad Street zoning study.

At the meeting, Blackwood presented an updated site plan to address some of these concerns. The new plan included picnic tables, bicycle parking and increased foliage to make the site more appealing.

However, following continued apprehension from planning commissioners, the developer agreed to comply with a suggested “up to 60-day deferral” to work with residents on developing a site plan that fit their desires and the intended use of the property.

The developer may return in front of the planning commission should an appropriate plan come into fruition by the next commission meeting.

Alina Hunter-Grah is a contributing writer. She is a graduate of The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she received a bachelor’s degree in communication with a minor in political science. Alina has over three years of journalism experience including time spent with CNN and 2nd & Church, a magazine based in Nashville, Tennessee. You can reach Alina at  [email protected] or on Twitter @alinahuntergrah

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