Today is Thursday, August 17, 2017

'Day of reckoning'

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On what might be a day of reckoning for Hunting Hills residents galvanized to fight a warehouse proposed near their neighborhood, the project goes before the Mt. Juliet City Commission Monday night.

"I feel we are going into this Monday's hearing with a strong commitment and case as to why this proposed warehouse is entirely out of place on our cul de sac," resident Lori Peek said. "We have brought to the attention of the city, the county and the developer that this changes our established neighborhood and our home values. This is a serious proposition to the families of Mt. Juliet."

For the past month about 40 residents on Hunting Hills have gathered forces to fight the proposed Panattoni-developed 1-million-square-foot warehouse on 55.76 acres near their long established neighborhood in the county.

Dubbed Beckwith North, the proposed development is near Under Armour currently under construction in the vicinity. Recently, the Mt. Juliet Planning Commission gave a 4-4 negative recommendation for the project that proposes the 23-acre main warehouse. Panattoni's intent is to have the 55.76 acres rezoned to industrial and annexed into the city.

Even though planners gave a negative recommendation, the project still goes before city commissioners for the final say. However, after the negative recommendation and a very vocal, organized protest from shocked neighbors, the developers asked the project be deferred and held a public meeting with the residents.

"Representatives of the neighborhood association are continuing to meet with the developers to gather information and to discuss changes to this proposed project," the residents' attorney Jim White said Thursday. "The residents of this peaceful rural area are working very hard and in good faith to address the issues presented by this proposal in order to preserve this wonderful neighborhood."

Public/private meetings with developer
The public meeting was tense as the residents wore t-shirts that said "Vote No" and "Save Mt. Juliet." There were two subsequent private meetings with the developers and a "committee" of about five residents.

"I don't begrudge them [the Woodroofs] to sell their property," resident David Plott said. "But they are obligated not to hurt the neighborhood."

The first private meeting was held last Wednesday night. Plott was a neighborhood representative. He said they asked Hayne and Whitfield Hamilton "specific questions."

"We asked things like, has there been an environmental study and storm water study?" he said. "We wanted to know about noise studies, the life span of buffer trees, and if they've ever built such a huge warehouse near a cul de sac."

Plott said they also asked their response to a suggestion they scale the massive project down to something less of a "monstrosity."

"They said the huge size is what the market demands," Plott said. "They want it to be approved for as big as possible, even though they don't even have a committed tenant."

Plott said the developers "came with the exact visuals as at the public meeting."

And they said Hamilton's earlier suggestion for the project to go before planners a second time was not acknowledged.

"We are still fighting and not giving up," Plott said. "We think the more time goes by the more people are on our side, on everyone's side against bad development."

City commissioner's response
District 4 City Commissioner Brian Abston has followed the issue and attended the public meeting.

"Right now there are a lot of positives moving forward, just as many negatives not to," Abston said. "Right now I have an open mind."

"I want to know what Panattoni has to say about suggestions from the residents," Abston said. "The initial plan, I was totally against it. I agreed with the residents. I need to see what has been done."

This week's meeting with developers
However, at the second private meeting held this week, the developers had more to say, according to Plott and others who were there.

"I guess there were some substantial changes," Plott said. "They said they could move the building 190 feet further to the east, have a 15 foot berm with 25 foot trees on top of it, 270 more trees and shrubs near the cul de sac. But, we are very disappointed. We need things to be done the right way."

Earlier, a local real estate agent confirmed those residences near the project would lose significant value.

"We want to get with the Realtors to see if these changes will make any kind of difference," Plott said.

Why not houses?
"Residents of Hunting Hills Drive and Northwest Rutland Road know that something will eventually occupy the land abutting the cul de sac end of Hunting Hills Drive," Debbie Plott said.

"We hope it is nice housing, not a huge, loud, noisy warehouse that will devalue our properties and wake up residents every morning, Monday through Friday," she said.

"There are some neighbors with concerns about damage from blasting," Peek said. "We have been told from Panattoni reps they are only responsible to address those 300 feet from the blasting area. Most of us are beyond 300 feet and are not covered."

"I wake up every morning and look at the cracks from the blasting," Angie Whooten, 1439 North West Rutland Road, said.

She said very definitely nearby blasting has caused issues in her home, and most likely will in other homes if more warehouses are built.

"The blasting caused things to fall off my walls and shelves," she said. "I had damage from the CEVA building being built, and had it repaired, and then came Under Armour. I see them reappear and new ones come."

"The backup beeper truck noise from Under Armor wakes up Janet and David Devine at 520 Hunting Hills Drive every single morning of every week. Janet says she "does not have to set an alarm clock."

Prepared to continue the fight
The neighbors will be en masse Monday night and take as much advantage of the "little time" they have to comment in front of the commission who will decide this issue.

"We will continue our 'Save Mt. Juliet' statement," Peek said. "We have faith that our commissioners have listened to the families of Mt. Juliet, and that everyone involved are reasonable and responsible people. Our neighborhood really feels a responsibility to the residents of Mt. Juliet to take a stand for responsible growth, not just to benefit a few, but that will help and benefit all."

Peek said there "are plenty of places for this developer to build the million-square-foot warehouse."

"We are hoping for a more suitable location and feel that this is the responsible way to accomplish a win for all" Peek said. "We are strong on our position and have garnered a lot of support from the community."

An attempt to reach Whitfield Hamilton was not successful by press time.

Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at laurieeverett1@gmail.com.

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Beckwith North, Hunting Hills, protest
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