Editor's Note: This article was edited on Oct. 27 to clarify language attributed to Larry Hubbard, member of the Lebanon Planning Commission.
One current member of the Lebanon Planning Commission said that emotions need to be removed from decision-making on the city's planning board.
Larry Hubbard, who began serving on the planning commission earlier this year, said it should not matter how a planner "feels" about a project, only if it meets all the requirements stated for each project.
On Oct. 10, planners Dan Mack, Pam Black and Beulah Garrett resigned their positions after Mayor Philip Craighead exercised an option in the City Charter that he could replace Mack's vote with his own.
Mack intended to vote "no" on the My Place Hotel, an extended-stay hotel planned for the Legends Drive Extension next to Cumberland Center Blvd. However, Craighead stepped in for Mack, using a provision as his "designated voter," and voted "yes" to approve the project, which caused the three to step down.
"The Planning Commission is charged with making decisions based on 'material evidence,'" Hubbard said. They should consider how a project complies with the city's water, sewer, infrastructure, fire and police protection, as well as zoning, codes and engineering specifications set forth by the city.
Hubbard said he believes planners in the past have allowed emotion to determine how they vote regarding a project, which has landed the city in several lawsuits with developers, which the city has ultimately lost.
"Our duty is to the City of Lebanon, without regard to how we feel about the project," he added. "Voting on emotion leads to problems."
Hubbard said when the developers first presented the My Place Hotel project to commission, he was not in favor of the plan. "I did not like it, in my opinion. But we made suggestions to the developers, which they took, such as improving the outside building materials, which they were not required to do."
Several planners wanted the hotel's orientation changed, but the building envelope would not allow it and still meet other code requirements.
"It's not in our charge to alter the plans that do not meet codes or to suggest another site preference that meets our idea."
Craighead said after the resignations that he stood by his decision.
"I absolutely stand by my decision," he said. "I love and respect them all (Mack, Black and Garrett), but my job is to do what's best for Lebanon. I felt I had to do it."
Hubbard contended that, "It's not my job to determine what it means to Lebanon."
He did, however, note concern about the growth of Lebanon if planners refused this project. "Lebanon doesn't need this type of stuff to come out.
"I believe the planning commission is evolving. The decisions are based more on 'material evidence' and less on emotion.
Hubbard agreed that many citizens are split on their opinion for pro-growth or the status quo. The philosphical divide between the two ideas of growth is split nearly 50-50.
"Being in the seat of a city planner is not always a happy place to be, I have learned that. But to do what I am charged to do, I have to accept that.
"Lebanon is at a huge crossroads in growth. Either we understand, manage, plan for it or let it overrun us. Growth is coming to Lebanon."
Managing Editor Zack Owensby may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.