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MJ commission kills Windtree Pines project

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Mt. Juliet city commissioners on second and final reading Monday night axed the long debated proposed 351 single-family-home development on Windtree Golf Course in Mt. Juliet.

Just after the vote to kill the project, developer Danny Hale left and told the Wilson Post he was thinking about litigation related to the vote.

"We have done everything lawfully," he said. "This project was approved by city staff, the planning commission and on first reading by this same commission. Nothing changed between the first and final vote. I am terribly disappointed in those who voted against this."

Hale was in the heat of the moment and did not detail what the litigation, if any, would be.

After about two hours of animated discourse between Hale and commissioners, commissioners killed the project in a 3-2 vote (Vice Mayor James Maness and commissioner Art Giles yes) with majority citing concerns about traffic and debate over a staff-advised, roundabout at the project's entrance, verses a traffic signal at the entrance to the proposed project. Secondary access to the proposed project was also debated.

When given the chance to defer the vote, Hale adamantly said "no" and the project was subsequently killed.

The project on Nonaville Road is in Commissioner Ray Justice's district. While he's never objected to the project itself, he was adamantly against the roundabout traffic measure recommended by city planner Andy Barlow.

"The limited sight distance is one reason not to have a roundabout," Justice said.

He noted those who come through Nonaville Road heading to the lake are not "professional" drivers and with big boats and trailers may not have the expertise to navigate a roundabout. He also said he conducted a poll of 180 area residents who use the road routinely and, "80 percent were against it."

Justice said he represents the area and had to take "them seriously."

Additionally, it was revealed the roundabout would cost about $800,000 and Hale initially said he simply could not afford it. Later, however, he indicated after 50 percent of the development was finished it could be a possibility.

Another point of contention was a secondary, by law, access to the proposed project. Sports Road was entertained as a possibility, but Justice cited safety problems and disruption to long time residents on that road. Cedar Creek Drive was mentioned as a possible connection, but did not get any traction. However, at an earlier meeting proposed town homes related to that access were nixed on the project as well as that access possibility.

"I agree we need to make the developer do it [roundabout] on the front in, but safety should be a priority," Commissioner Brian Abston said. "I agree with a roundabout in certain areas, but not in this instance. If safety is such an issue let's rethink all this."

Mayor Ed Hagerty said, "If this can't be done in a safe manner, I'm thinking of not doing it at all."

"All around this is not a good plan," Justice said. "He [Hale] can't afford it [roundabout]. I'm going to ask this plan not be approved at all if we can't do it in an efficient manner."

Since the project is dead, Hale does have the option to start brand new with the planning commission on a different plan. At this time there Windtree Golf Course is still in operation.

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