Is The Pointe at Five Oaks dead-in-the water? Not necessarily.
Five Oaks resident Traci Peel, who has been vocal in her concerns about the proposed apartment development, exited the Lebanon Planning Commission's three-and-a-half hour meeting on Tuesday night feeling it was a "cautious victory" for residents in opposition to plan to locate a 300-unit facility on acreage in Five Oaks and distribute traffic onto the neighborhood's entrance, Five Oaks Boulevard.
After hearing arguments from upset residents and the developers, the Lebanon Planning Commission surprised the room by doing nothing at all. None of the eight members of the Lebanon Planning Commission made a motion to approve the development.
It's possible the developers could bring the project before planning commission as soon as next month; however, City Attorney Andy Wright fears they are in "uncharted waters."
At press time Thursday, Wright said he would be speaking with the developer Chris Creek's attorney, Jim White, on how to proceed.
"Planning Commissions have only had legal authority to approve site plans since 2010, even though they've historically done it for decades without actual statutory authority. The statute merely says they have site plan approval authority, but gives no guidance on things like time limits, criteria, et cetera," Wright explained. "So administratively, we're in uncharted waters when it comes to a site plan that just simply wasn't voted on."
Wright spoke out during Tuesday's meeting that it was not the job of the planning commission to ask whether or not the development should go forward, but how it should go forward. "I have not heard a single legal reason to deny this site plan for permitted use," he said.
Still, residents raised enough concerns to stall the plan a bit longer.
Peel argued that she wasn't against growth and progress - but wished for it to be done "the right way."
Peel pointed to her career history, where she was part of a development group for Williamson County's The Grove. She said they "did the dog and pony show" and "showed everybody up front what we were going to do" - something many felt this developer didn't do well.
Although there was a meeting for residents, as advised by the planning commission after deferring approval in their August meeting - folks who spoke to The Wilson Post in an earlier story said they left the meeting with more questions than they arrived with. One of the Five Oaks neighborhood developers, Sam Hatcher, had disagreed, believing that the residential meeting was informative.
Peel alleged that to her knowledge, the developer's only facilities in which they still operate are student housing.
"There's nothing personal, but I have a little problem believing a leopard changes its spots. If you build student housing, I highly doubt this is going to be high-end apartments," she said. "I don't believe they should have the advantages and branding off of Five Oaks."
Furthermore, Peel pleaded that commission members require the developer to build tenants their own entrance and exits. "I guarantee that all of us would go home and be happy if you do the right thing," she said.
Five Oaks resident Kevin Foushee said that he has lived in several larger cities, such as Franklin and Atlanta, and has "never seen an apartment complex at the entrance to a subdivision like Five Oaks."
Much of Foushee's concerns were that developers had "hoodwinked" residents from the get-go.
"Nothing was ever presented to us that an apartment complex could be at the entrance of our neighborhood... People have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on their homes not knowing that an apartment could go at the entryway... When we moved in, we were told it would be very nice retail space," he said, adding that he has been a resident since 2002. "Nobody ever said a word about apartments."
Foushee challenged the commission, as they go forward, to look closely at "everything as far as zoning goes."
It was revealed at the meeting that RPM Transportation Consultants suggested the following after a seven-day traffic study:
A right and left turning lane be added coming out of Five Oaks Blvd. onto Hwy. 70
A deceleration lane by added to Hwy. 70 westbound turning onto Five Oaks Blvd.
They did not recommend a traffic light be added at the entrance.
The developer agreed during the meeting to make concessions to the original design, creating a second entrance/exit directly onto Hwy.70/Lebanon Road into the apartment complex, in addition to the originally-designed entrance/exit onto Five Oaks Blvd.
Wright told The Wilson Post he would know more about the next step after his conversation with Creek's attorney on Friday. The Wilson Post will continue to follow this story.
The Ridge at Lebanon
The second heated development on the agenda was regarding a nearly 100-unit apartment complex by RichSmith Development proposed to be located off Fairview Ave. behind Sellars Funeral Home.
Much of the concern expressed by residents was in regards to sewer issues and drainage from the property, as well as the traffic concerns related to its main entrance/exit on Fairview Drive.
Brooks House President Liz Reese spoke in favor of the apartments, explaining how that area of Lebanon needed affordable, quality housing.
However, it was not enough to quell the fears of planners as they voted 4-4, essentially allowing the proposal to fail after it, too, met all requirements for zoning according to city staff.
Chairman David Taylor, Kathy Adams, Mike Walls and Jesse Gilliam voted in favor of the project and planners Bernie Ash, Pam Black, Beulah Garrett and Dan Mack voting opposed.
According to Lebanon Planning Director Paul Corder, because of the lack of majority, the proposal did not pass.
Wright said after the meeting that in his capacity as city attorney, the developer of that property could file a writ of certiorari, which would require a court to review their plan, compare it to zoning regulations and look for irregularities.
"We were disappointed that some of the commissioners chose to ignore their legal duties and failed to approve the site plan even though city staff had explained to them that it met each and every requirement for approval. RichSmith remains committed to the project," RichSmith's attorney David Kleinfelter said.
"With respect to our next steps, we are exploring all our options, including a writ of certiorari for review of the commission's decision, and possibly seeking relief for the due process and Fair Housing issues raised by the Commission's action."
What was believed to be a resolution may just be the beginning.
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