A little more than three months after denying a variance request for a local restaurant, the Ringgold City Council voted Monday night, July 10, to reconsider and approve the request with stipulations.
In a March 27 public hearing, local businessman Emerson Russell requested two variances from the council: the first to allow for metal siding on the building of a new restaurant he's having built, and the second asking for permission to erect a sign larger than what the city ordinance allows.
Following a long back-and-forth with the mayor and council, Russell wound up one for two in his requests.
The requests were related to a new Farm to Fork restaurant planned next to the Hampton Inn hotel off Battlefield Parkway, which was also a Emerson Properties project.
The existing Farm to Fork at 118 Remco Shops Lane is one of the city's most popular eateries, and Russell stated he's been working with the owners of the restaurant to build a newer version right off the 350 exit.
After approving the sign variance request, the council denied allowing Russell and the restaurant to leave portions of the building as metal without some sort of siding present, which would have violated the city's building ordinance. Russell threatened to de-annex his properties but never pursued that options.
On Monday night attorney Chad Young addressed the council representing Russell, and presented an alternative plan that includes specific landscaping to cover up the back of the building visible from Battlefield Parkway.
"The proposal now for the facade is to plant approximately 25 Leyland cypress trees in the location as shown on the attached drawing," Young said. "It'll help soften the appearance of the metal facade of that building. Those will be planted and in place before the owner would be eligible for his certificate of occupancy. There's also a binding commitment that should any of those trees die or be damaged, they would be timely replaced with a new tree of similar quality."
This time around, the council unanimously approved the variance request.
Councilman Larry Black says the council members voted differently this time because they were offered more information about the restaurant's plan.
"We did hear this on March 27, and we were presented with what we felt like was limited information and felt like we needed more information to make a good decision and move forward, so we appreciate what you've brought."
Black added that the initial denial had nothing to do with the restaurant itself, but rather pertained to the visibility residents and visitors have of the establishment from one of the town's busiest roadways.
"We just needed more information about what's going to be done to cover that to make it look more professional for the people that are coming into Ringgold," Black said. "It's not a situation where we're against the growth. My concern was just on that south elevation and how we were going to cover what looks like just a cheap metal building on that back side when you're coming down Battlefield Parkway. The last thing we would want to do is have a situation where we open up a lot of substandard-type construction where people think, 'hey, the city will let this go'."
A firm open date for the restaurant has not been announced, but it is expected to be completed sometime this Fall.
"At the end of the day, our goal is to attract patrons to eat at the restaurant and stay at the hotel, so we want it to look as nice as it can," Young said.