The developer of the largest planned community in Chattanooga said the $300 million effort was on hold due to repeated delays by the Tennessee Valley Authority in its review of the proposed riverside project on the shore. north, just below the CB Robinson Bridge.
The project in Riverview, known as Riverton, was acquired by Thunder Enterprises from John Thornton in 2019. Thornton planned to start building the 210-acre residential complex last year after submitting applications for boat permits and platform at TVA almost two years ago.
“It’s kind of frustrating that we submitted our applications in May and June 2020 hoping to get our permits and things in early 2021, and that didn’t happen,” Thornton told the president of TVA, Jeff Lyash, at a Rotary Club of Chattanooga luncheon on Thursday. . “We continue to have late dates and late dates. I know TVA has a lot of other bigger issues to focus on, but our investors and others are really concerned about these dock permits.”
Thornton said the developers at Riverton did everything right and continue to respond to TVA’s requests for more information. Although Thornton originally considered building a canal and indoor marina on part of the site, he has abandoned those plans and is instead seeking permission to develop docks for residents on the Tennessee River between the C.B. Robinson Bridge and the park. community of Rivermont and the tennis courts.
The Tennessee Valley Authority Act of 1933 gives TVA broad authority to conserve and protect the Tennessee River and the shoreline along the 652-mile river path. In particular, section 26a of the VAT Act requires that the approval of the authority be obtained before the construction, operation or maintenance of any dam, ancillary works or other obstacle affecting navigation, control flooding or public lands or reservations along or in the Tennessee River or any of its tributaries.
Lyash said issuing wharf permits for shoreline development was important to him, and he said the Riverton project was being carefully considered “to protect everyone’s interests”.
“These processes are designed to carefully balance all interests,” Lyash said. “We are subject to the National Environmental Policy Act and respect the rights of everyone, including those who use the waterways and Native Americans who may have significant cultural property on these properties. We are working extremely hard on all of these permits, including for Riverton.”
Thornton urged TVA to bring in an outside consultant to review how it handles its applications and permits shoreline development to streamline development and provide faster review of proposals.
On the Hiwassee River in east Tennessee, Check Into Cash founder Allan Jones said TVA cooperated with his family’s request for a dock, but the permitting process took more than three years.
“We’re finally building the dock now,” Jones said.
Thornton, a longtime developer of luxury homes, completes the Jasper Highlands development on Jasper Mountain near Kimball and begins building River Gorge Ranch atop Aetna Mountain in Marion County. The Thunder Enterprises mountaintop developments west of Chattanooga required the construction of roads, water systems and other infrastructure and represent some of the largest mountaintop residential developments in Tennessee with a estimated combined value of up to $2 billion once fully developed.
(READ MORE: Chattanooga developer John “Thunder” Thornton’s companies to pay $50,000 to settle water case in state’s Jasper Highlands)
Thornton said it was usually easier to license rural mountaintop projects than to get approval to put docks on the Tennessee River at Riverton in the city of Chattanooga.
TVA has stated on its website that delays in reviewing any 26a permit application may result from complications such as incomplete applications, changes to the project after the application is submitted, potential impacts on sensitive resources (archaeology , wetlands, mussels, endangered species, etc.), potential impacts on TVA’s interests in navigation or flood control, or unresolved violations and encroachments. There may also be delays associated with obtaining the required state permits before TVA can issue a federal permit.
Thornton insists he has complied with all VAT demands.
“When they tell us to jump, we start jumping and ask them if it’s high enough,” Thornton said after speaking with Lyash. “We submitted everything they asked us to submit, and we did it in a timely manner. We are at their mercy and waiting for them.”
(READ MORE: Thunder Enterprises acquires 7,400 acres for another mountaintop development in Marion County)
A year ago, Thunder Enterprises received approval from the Chattanooga/Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission for an initial plan to develop more than 400 hospitality sites on the 210-acre Riverton site, which includes the 9-acre Lupton City Golf Club. But TVA has not yet signed the requested dock permits for the development’s waterfront lots.
Thunder Enterprises acquired the site three years ago from Riverton LLC, which purchased the site for $8.1 million from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee in 2018.
BlueCross once planned to build its headquarters on the plot, but ultimately decided to build the company’s campus atop Cameron Hill in downtown Chattanooga.
Thornton said TVA’s 26a permit is required before Army Corps of Engineers or city permits can be granted for development along the river.