Council kills $100M Hixson project; one member skips vote - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Council kills $100M Hixson project; one member skips vote

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- The $100 million apartment-retail-restaurant-office development would have covered 190 acres, including a hilltop, off Boy Scout Road near Highway 153 in Hixson.

"We have received the conditions (from the Regional Planning Agency)," Scenic Land Co.'s Duane Horton tells Chattanooga City Council Tuesday night. "And agreed to them in their entirety."

Horton pledged to build the apartments before starting work on the stores and offices. He maintained that he would agree to 38 of the 46 design changes that skeptical neighbors and the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy (NCCC) had requested.

"He makes grandiose promises," neighbor Ellie Wallis tells Council members. "But he's unwilling to make his promises binding."

Council members had delayed voting two weeks ago. Tuesday night, they voted 5-3, to deny the rezoning that would have allowed Horton's project, dubbed 'Chattanooga Village.'

"He (Horton) is disappointed, but hasn't decided where it goes from here," public relations executive Robin Derryberry tells Channel 3.

"More than anything, it's categorical relief that Council made a decision," NCCC executive director Gregory Vickrey says. "A reasonable decision, taking into account our concerns about flooding, traffic, and overbuild, is a victory."

"It's a little frustrating and disappointing," Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd says.

Ladd isn't talking about the outcome. The project would have been in her District, and she opposed the rezoning.

Rather, she's addressing why District #1 representative Deborah Scott neither voted, nor was present for Tuesday's meeting.

"She'd had a disagreement with Peter (Murphy, representing Council District #9) at a committee meeting that afternoon."

"I did ask her (Scott) to please stay," Ladd says. "What she told me was that she'd been cut off from speaking by three different chairmen three different times, and that she wasn't able to make her District heard. She said we already had enough votes and didn't need hers."

"What her vote would have been, I don't know."

Murphy chaired Tuesday's Council meeting, as the development vote involved a project in Chairwoman Ladd's district.

In casting last (the vote already 4-3 against), Murphy indicated he was "voting with the prevailing side and voting no."

Reached via phone Wednesday, Murphy tells Channel 3 he won't speculate how Scott would have voted, or whether her vote might have swayed his or others, thus altering the result.

"It's hypothetical," Murphy says. "And aside from that, such talk could give the developer (Horton) or property owner (Jack Lonas) grounds for legal action."

After multiple failed attempts to reach Scott through calls to her Council office, her cell phone, and to her home, Channel 3 went to her home seeking comment.

Repeated knocks bring no response, save loud barking from her German Shepherd, stationed at the edge of a security fence that bears a warning sign: Guard Dog.

"The losers, besides the developer, are everybody who has a vested interest in this issue, and everybody in her District," Council Chairwoman Ladd says.

"District #1 did not have a representative on this vote or any of the votes we took last night."

Scott missed voting on nine more agenda items, including expenditures of more than $1 million toward construction of a new firing range for Chattanooga Police and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office. Council members also authorized approximately $493,137.42 in upgrades, design authorizations, and contract amendments for several wastewater treatment plants. 

All resolutions passed, by comfortable if not unanimous margins.

Scott is not a candidate for re-election March 5. Her term ends April 15.

Did she shirk her responsibilities?

"That's my opinion," Chairwoman Ladd says.

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