Restau­rant now in limbo

Ring­gold coun­cil de­nies re­quest for build­ing vari­ance

The Catoosa County News - - FRONT PAGE - By Adam Cook

The fate of a new restau­rant in Ring­gold is up in the air af­ter the city coun­cil re­cently de­nied a vari­ance re­quest per­tain­ing the ap­pear­ance of the build­ing.

In a re­cent pub­lic hear­ing, local busi­ness­man Emer­son Rus­sell re­quested two vari­ances from the coun­cil: the first to al­low for a metal ex­te­rior 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.

“It’s go­ing to be a very dec­o­ra­tive build­ing,” Rus­sell said. “I think it’s go­ing to be a real good looking build­ing for Ca­toosa County and for Ring­gold. Part of the build­ing is go­ing to be metal. We ob­tained a build­ing per­mit with the un­der­stand­ing that we were go­ing to ask for this vari­ance. We’re spend­ing a lot of money, a lit­tle over a $1.75 mil­lion on this build­ing and its con­tents. It’s a 10,000-square-foot restau­rant with out­door seat­ing on the side of the Hamp­ton Inn there.”

Mayor Nick Mill­wood and all the mem­bers of the coun­cil wel­come the idea of the new restau­rant, but hav­ing metal on por­tions or the back fa­cade of a new build­ing would be against the city’s or­di­nance.

“I’m so happy that this par­tic­u­lar busi­ness is mov­ing up there be­cause if there’s any­thing I hear in our com­mu­nity, it’s the need for a nice, sit-down, steak­house type restau­rant, so I’m

happy you’re looking at try­ing to put this type of busi­ness there,” Mill­wood said.

Coun­cil­woman Sara Clark added that she too is in fa­vor of the eatery as long as it falls in line with cur­rent build­ing struc­tures.

“As a for­mer mem­ber of plan­ning and zon­ing, when we made these metal build­ing rules, it was for a rea­son. ... It was to have all the build­ings in Ring­gold that you could see from roads like Bat­tle­field Park­way look ap­peal­ing,” Clark said.

Ren­der­ings of the front of the build­ing in­cluded very ap­peal­ing sid­ing and nice land­scape. Clark asked if Rus­sell and his group could make the back of the build­ing look the same as the front so it would com­ply with the or­di­nance and be more invit­ing to peo­ple who would see it while trav­el­ing along Bat­tle­field Park­way.

“We could, but it’s cost pro­hib­i­tive for us to do that, you’re talk­ing about an­other $50,000 or more,” Rus­sell said. “It’s go­ing to be a very good-looking build­ing and some­thing that every­body is go­ing to be very proud of once you go up there.”

Rus­sell said there are land­scap­ing plans in place to cover up a lot of the back of the build­ing.

“We will have some trees and stuff up there to soften that look up, plus the Farm to Fork sign is go­ing to take away from a lot of that,” Rus­sell said. “Every­body also needs to keep in mind that I’m putting the Spring Hill Suites up there be­hind the Hamp­ton Inn, so you want ev­ery­thing on that road to look first­class, which is what we’re try­ing to do. On the back side of it, there are freez­ers and things that are go­ing to be on the back that we’ll need to cover up. There will even­tu­ally be an­other build­ing that will block part of the view from the in­ter­state any­way. In the fu­ture, prob­a­bly 70 to 80 per­cent of the build­ing won’t be able to be seen from Bat­tle­field Park­way.”

Coun­cil­man Jake Haynes ad­mit­ted he too is ex­cited about the restau­rant, but that it should be closer to what the or­di­nance calls for.

“We want it to look a lit­tle more fin­ished than just a metal build­ing,” Haynes said. “We want to work with you. ... It’s a great-looking build­ing and we’re happy it’s coming. We’re will­ing to com­pro­mise on some things, but we want it to look bet­ter.”

Rus­sell said adding vinyl sid­ing to the build­ing would de­grade its value, which prompted Haynes to sug­gest adding some of the hardy board­type sid­ing sim­i­lar to what is planned for the front en­trance of the build­ing.

“That’d mean spend­ing an­other $50,000 to $60,000, and I’m just not will­ing to do that,” Rus­sell said. “I’ll just stop the project. When you pull up to this build­ing, you’re go­ing to be go­ing in the front door. ... You don’t go in the back door. From a busi­ness stand­point, when peo­ple pull up there to the build­ing, you want it to be invit­ing, which is what it’s go­ing to be. If we down­grade that, it’s go­ing to down­grade the op­er­a­tion. It’s go­ing to have a full sit-down bar, meet­ing room, out­door ar­eas. I’m al­ready about $400,000 over bud­get, and I’m just not will­ing to put much more into this thing.”

To­wards the end of the dis­cus­sion, Mayor Pro Tem Terry Craw­ford sug­gested hold­ing off on a vote so Rus­sell’s design team could take some time to pos­si­bly ad­just some of the de­tails for the prob­lem ar­eas of the build­ing, but Rus­sell in­sisted on a vote be­ing taken.

“I’d rather y’all just go ahead and do it (vote),” he said.

Coun­cil­man Larry Black mo­tioned to ap­prove the re­quest and added that he trusts Rus­sell when he says he’ll make the build­ing as pre­sentable as pos­si­ble.

“Based on his past track record, I would like to make the mo­tion that we ap­prove the vari­ance tonight, and we can make it con­tin­gent on him dress­ing that up and block­ing the view from Bat­tle­field Park­way,” Black said.

“You’ve got my word,” Rus­sell replied. “We’re not go­ing to leave it bare. We want it to be warm and pleas­ing to peo­ple.”

The vari­ance re­quest was de­nied by a 3-2 vote, with Black and Craw­ford in fa­vor of the re­quest while Clark, Haynes, and Ran­dall Franks voted no.

Rus­sell was less than pleased with the out­come.

“I plan on dean­nex­ing all my prop­er­ties from the city, thank you,” he said be­fore walk­ing out of the court­room.

Even though Rus­sell had al­ready left, the coun­cil still took the time to vote on the sign vari­ance re­quest for the restau­rant and unan­i­mously ap­proved al­low­ing a sign that is 16 square feet larger than what the or­di­nance al­lows.

“In case Mr. Rus­sell de­cides that he re­thinks this and wants to do some­thing different, I move that we do al­low that vari­ance for the sign,” Clark said. “We re­ally have a long range plan for Ring­gold, and this end of Bat­tle­field Park­way is go­ing to show­case where Ring­gold is go­ing. I just think that needs to be dressed up more than just a metal build­ing. It needs to look bet­ter than a metal build­ing. I’m looking to the fu­ture, and any­thing you put up there that meets those stan­dards we’ve set would just look so much bet­ter.”

The ex­ist­ing Farm to Fork restau­rant is lo­cated at 118 Remco Shops Lane, and is one of the most pop­u­lar restau­rants in Ring­gold. (Ca­toosa News photo/ Adam Cook)

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