Though they recognized their protest was futile, a large contingent of angry Mt. Juliet Windtree Trace neighbors voiced their discontent over a planned apartment complex in "their backyard" on Nonaville Road.
They packed city chambers at last week's Planning Commission meeting.
City officials basically told the disillusioned neighbors the property has been zoned commercial for years, and the best they could do was try to eek out a few conditions from developers which would make the pill a little easier to swallow.
Northtown Gardens is a planned 360-unit apartment complex on 28.3 acres, south of Windtree Place subdivision on Nonaville Road. The planned complex backs up to much of the neighborhood that is well established.
A tour through Windtree Trace reveals multiple "For Sale" signs; a sad end, some neighbors said, to living in their "dream homes," with a backdrop of fields and deer that will soon be apartments.
Windtree Trace resident Tim Thompson said his home will be behind apartment building "2" and "my property values will definitely go down." He noted the conditional 6-foot privacy fence the apartment developer agreed to erect.
"Six feet won't do anything," he said. "I know we can't stop this. This is wrong, you need to give us our privacy and our dignity."
According to city planners, the total density of the project is 14.6 dwellings per acre, with 8 percent open space, which they said exceeds the minimum 7 percent. The complex will have a 3,600-square-foot swimming pool, an 11,000-square-foot pavilion and some walking trails.
The project has a positive recommendation from the city, subject to several "conditions" asked of the developers. Some of those include a third lane demarcation on Nonaville Road up to Searcy Road, and another left hand lane onto Lebanon Road, as well as some striping and widening.
A detention pond on Windtree Trace property will also be "taken over" by Northtown Gardens for future maintenance. There will be upgrades to the existing traffic light, as well as the aforementioned wooden privacy fence around the apartments.
A representative for the project also said his client agreed to work with local school W.A. Wright to have a sidewalk from the apartments to the school if the "school board will allow it."
'Have mercy on us'
These conditions did little to ease Windtree Trace resident Shea Ashcroft's angst. She told city leaders the traffic on Nonaville Road is already a nightmare, and 1,500 more residents in the area will worsen things even more.
"I don't care about a sidewalk," she said.
She said already it takes her daughter one hour to get to the local school, "and we add 700 more cars on the road in rush hour, that won't help."
Resident Jerry Jones voiced concerns about an already troublesome drainage problem near his home on Pebble Cove.
"I'm afraid it will get worse from the blasting," he said. "The traffic on Lebanon Road is not a secret and things will get busier and busier. There will be a strain on our schools, water and sewer. Let's keep Mt. Juliet beautiful."
He said when the apartments come in, "I'm out."
Nicki Anderson said she's lived in Windtree Trace 15 years.
"Then this is plopped in our back yard," she said. "I feel forced out of my home. I've cried."
Whispering Breeze neighbor David Reed also has resided in Windtree Trace 15 years.
"It's been a great life here," he said.
He said the conditional changes to the road "won't cure the problem."
"If you look at similar complexes in Hermitage and Antioch it takes about 36 months to deteriorate," said Reed. "We can't stop this, why not just keep to nice, single family home. Have some mercy on us."
Another neighbor said, "We are trading acres of trees for a 6-foot fence."
"It's a monstrosity," she said.
District commissioner frustrated
Even the neighbors' district commissioner, Ray Justice, expressed frustration.
"The county initially zoned it commercial," he said. "The city inherited the zoning. We can't change it. Unfortunately, we can't."
He said, "so, we go in and work with the developer to make it the best we can."
"I'm not happy with it either," he said. "I don't blame you. They could have put in Section 8 housing, but I asked them to at least come in with a PUD (Planned Unit Development) to increase their responsibility."
The developer's attorney, Tom White, spoke to planners.
"At the end of the day there are uses by law," he said. "But, my client has agreed to take on some things. I think we've done the right thing by stepping up."
Planning member and Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty, said he was going to "hold my nose and vote" for the project.
"They have a legal right to build it," he said.
He reiterated the conditions, which include monument signs, 30-foot buffer, sidewalk, 50 percent brick facing the road, the detention pond and road improvements.
The planning commission gave the project a positive recommendation. But many of the neighbors hardly believe the project will bring any positive to the area.
Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.