One of the largest planned residential projects on downtown Chattanooga's riverfront, holding up to 300 apartments with views of Ross's Landing, is expected to move ahead after winning approval to build seven stories.
But the development estimated by officials at $60 million to $70 million drew fire from some residents of the nearby One North Shore condominium complex on Manufacturers Road. They expressed concerns about the proposed apartments blocking views of the Tennessee River while increasing vehicle traffic in the area.
The city's Form Based Code Committee in a meeting Thursday OK'd a zoning variance allowing an added story to the project that looks like two buildings but are connected as one. The panel nixed a request by the development group to reduce the structure's setback from the Tennessee River from 100 feet to 80 feet.
Panel member David Hudson said he was worried about creating a precedent by narrowing the setback as more riverfront development takes place.
"I don't want to start something," he said at the meeting. "We only have one riverfront."
Property owner Joseph Wingfield, of Chattanooga, said his family has held the 6.3-acre vacant riverfront tract at 418 Manufacturers Road since 2008.
"We always hoped to develop it," he said. "We never found the right partner."
However, his family has teamed with Southeastern Development of Augusta, Georgia, for the proposal to build from 275 to 300 units.
Mark Senn of Southeastern said in an interview that he's unsure how not securing the reduced setback will affect the project, but plans are to move forward. He said he believes work will start in 2024.
"We'll figure it out," Senn said.
Wingfield said the land was zoned without setbacks when the parcel was purchased.
"It's ironic the city changes the rules and takes value from us," he said about the existing form-based code zoning of the property.
Plans are to have two levels of parking, with one underground, beneath the apartments, officials said.
Kathleen Cain, who lives at One North Shore, told the board the proposed project is "a river's edge development."
"We're getting a new riverfront yard," she said.
Cain said the height and mass of the apartment complex will block scenic views of the river.
"Our concern is the size and scale of the development doesn't fit the current pattern to what the riverfront is," she said.
Also, with the planned new apartments and other residential projects going up nearby, traffic will worsen on Manufacturers Road, Cain said.
Another woman who lives nearby told the panel that she, too, was worried about the size of the project so close to the river on the North Shore.
"We're very concerned about the impact of a large project on adjacent property," she said, also citing concerns over flood control and water quality.
Donna Shepherd of A.D. Engineering, who is working with the project team, said at the meeting she was seeking a reduction in the setback of 20 feet. But she said the development group could accept 10 feet.
Still, Hudson and another panel member expressed concerns over setting precedent on the waterfront.