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published on 03/25/2003

Tabb LLC Property VS Town of Signal Mountain

By staff writer

Proposed CVS
SEE PICTURE---Tabb, LLC Property and the Town of Signal Mountain settle dispute. Monday, March 24th at 7:00 PM in the Signal Mountain Town Hall, the SM Town Council held a public hearing and voted to settle the pending lawsuit between the two parties.

Before hearing from the attorneys on both sides, Mayor Althaus recognized Councilmember Robert White who asked for a few minutes to address the public. Councilmember White addressed the audience and apologized for his recent actions asking for everyone’s forgiveness. Mayor Althaus thanked Mr. White and praised him for his courage.

Town recorder, Diana Campbell called roll and noted that Councilmember Rachel Bryant was out of town therfore absent from the meeting. Town manager, Hershel Dick as well as town attorney Phil Noblett were present.

Mayor Althaus began the meeting by bringing the audience up to date on the lawsuit noting that the Town of Signal Mountain lost the law suit and that Chancellor Brown will assess the town with damages on June 23, 2003, if a settlement is not made between the two parties. The purpose of tonight’s meeting was to discuss the proposed settlement. If a settlement is agreed upon at tonight’s meeting then the dispute will end and the Town will not have to pay damages, which would come directly out of the tax payers since the town did not have the kind of money or insurance the judge might assess.

Attorney, Bob Lype representing the Tabb family began with a presentation assuring the Council that they came in good faith and wanted the dispute to end. They also want the Town to approve the settlement and the parking issue, which would end the dispute (i.e. lawsuit). Included in the presentation were maps of the proposed site. According to the settlement, only a pharmacy (CVS, Eckerds, Walgreens) can be built on the site. The pharmacy would be built on current commercially zoned property. Also, according to the settlement, a portion of residential property will be permitted to be part of the parking lot. (Herein lies the root of the lawsuit. In another settlement back in 1998, which the Tabb family won, parking spaces would have been permitted. But before they were built the Town came in and rewrote the ordinance to not allow this. The Tabb family sued again and the court agreed, the Town of Signal Mountain should not have done this and therefore, the Tabb family if "grandfathered" and under the rule of the old ordinances.) The Tabb Property will landscape and build the structure to the Town’s code as well as landscape the median on Palisades Drive and possibly put in a sidewalk on the East side of Palisades.

After the presentation, SM Town attorney, Phil Noblett, explained that the terms of the settlement had come after a lengthy and sincere effort on both parties to settle the matter. He read through the fifteen terms and conditions of the Settlement Agreement. (Editor’s note: A complete copy of the Settlement Agreement can be found at the Town Hall.)

Mayor Althaus then opened up the public hearing to questions and/or statements from members of the audience. Several members expressed support for the settlement to end the dispute and get on with doing the business of the Town. Former Councilmember Billy Steele asked if the land connected to the proposed property, which the Tabb family were donating to the Town of Signal Mountain, was part of the deal or could it be refused. Attorney, Phil Noblett, said it was part of the settlement. Diane Gallagher, spoke up and said she too had a problem with adding one more piece of park property to the Town. To which Jean Dolan responded by saying there can never be too much green space within the Town.

The only resident present to argue against the settlement were Mr. and Mrs. Piper who live adjacent to the proposed property. Disappointed in the poor turnout of people who are against the site being developed, Mr. Piper felt the Town should continue to fight the Tabb family who he feels are not being harmonious in their decision to put in a pharmacy. He was disappointed in the judge’s decision which he felt was a mistake and that the Town is being intimidated by the judge and the Tabb family.

Mayor Althaus closed the public hearing and asked each Councilmember to speak on the subject. Councilmember Robert White voiced a positive opinion reflecting the need to settle and compromise as the Tabb family is a good family. He assured former Councilmember Billy Steele that the current Council does not hold him or the former Council responsible for the lawsuit. He did not think it prudent to take a chance with the Chancellor and best to settle.

Councilmember Steve Ruffin, on the other hand was torn between what he felt was right and proper. Making this decision was excruciating, he said, because he knew a settlement was best for the town, but he campaigned on a platform to not support development on the mountain so he would have to vote against the Settlement Agreement.

Mayor Althaus said the Town owned the property, needed the money so sold it to the Tabb family, and now it was their property and the Town needed to let go and own up to the mistakes made in the past and move on.

Councilmember and Vice-mayor Bill Leonard said he agreed with Councilmember Ruffin in that this was a hard decision for him as he grew up in that area and still had many friends who be affected by this development. He was glad the Tabb family were willing to work with the Town and the neighborhood to make the property the least “intrusive” as possible.

In the end the Council voted to pass the Settlement Agreement with Councilmember Steve Ruffin the only nay vote.

According to the Settlement Agreement, the next step is for the Tabb property to come before the Zoning Commission and Sign and Design Review Committee, meet with the Town engineer and any other department that would be affected by this development. Although Mayor Althaus pointed out that the Zoning Commission does not answer to the Town Council, attorney Phil Noblett assured the audience that the Settlement Agreement insures the Tabb family that they will not be stopped by a technicality coming from a committee or commission. If something does come up that needs to be addressed the Tabb family has time, allowed in the Settlement Agreement to change something to meet the codes. Everyone left the meeting with the feeling that it was the goal of the Settlement Agreement and both parties that the issue was over and the Town of Signal Mountain would in good faith do all things possible to end the lawsuit.

The meeting adjourned at 9:10 PM.
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