Today is Thursday, July 20, 2017

MJ planners OK new car dealership

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MT. JULIET -- Issues including the quality of the proposed construction materials and the population density already in the area prompted the Mt. Juliet Planning Commission to vote 4-2 Thursday night to turn down the proposed Meridian apartment complex on Providence Trail.

On the other hand, the commission was united in its approval of the preliminary master plan for Premier Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep of Lebanon, to be located on Old Pleasant Grove Road near I-40 and the Mt. Juliet Walmart on 8 acres that Premier will purchase from the City of Mt. Juliet, bringing another much sought-after new car dealership to the city.

Plus, the plan for the dealership easily jumped one more hurdle by the unanimous vote of the City Commission Monday night on the plan’s first reading, with the addition of an amendment making Premier responsible for maintaining both sides of its planned 6-foot-high privacy fence around the property’s perimeter.

The new car dealership is the second one in Mt. Juliet. Two Rivers Ford opened its dealership in the city in 2008. City Manager Kenny Martin recently pointed out that the city, which relies heavily on sales tax revenues to generate its general fund, will benefit considerably from the sales of a new cars for thousands of dollars.

The Planning Commission’s consideration of the Premier dealership plan was deferred at the commission’s April meeting at Martin’s request, after neighboring residents expressed concern about rezoning the property from residential (RS-40) to Commercial Mixed Use (CMU) without a Planned Unit Development (PUD) to specify exact plans for the site.

The preliminary master plan approved Thursday and Monday nights addressed those concerns by creating the requested PUD. It calls for a 36,015-square-foot sales and service area at the dealership, surrounded by a buffer including the 6-foot-high privacy fence to ameliorate any noise and light issues.

The project has been in the works since at least Jan. 13, when the City Commission voted to authorize a letter of intent to sell the property to Premier Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep for $1 million, with half of the purchase price to be returned when the project is 20 percent complete.

Meanwhile, prior to the Planning Commission’s Meridian vote, neighbors of the proposed complex protested the plan based on the materials in the exterior walls that developer Gary O’Brien said he intended to build, as well as the potential impact on the heavy traffic already generated by existing homes in Providence, and other concerns.

After the negative vote, O’Brien asked to defer presenting his plan for a single-family development called Baird Farm on South Rutland Road, which would open onto Providence Trail like Meridian would have done, until the Planning Commission’s next meeting on July 17.

The discussion began with District 4 City Commissioner Jim Bradshaw telling the planners that 1,046 new multi-family units and 1,182 new single-family units already have been approved in Mt. Juliet, with a large percentage in the Providence area near the proposed Meridian complex and Baird Farm development.

“Tonight this developer is proposing 225 more multi-family units and 285 single-family houses, all on Providence Trail,” Bradshaw said. “I just want you to look at the numbers and think about this. This is too much. I would vote no.”

Then a local resident pointed out that at Baird Farm, residents would not be joining the Providence Master Association. “It’s ludicrous to think homeowners in $250,000 to $450,000 homes can’t afford $10 a month to join us,” he said.

Providence Trail resident Pete Billings expressed concern about the proposed setbacks in Baird Farm. “They are proposing 15-foot front yards, with 5-foot sidewalks on one side and 8-foot walking trails on the other,” he said. “That means if they park a car in the driveway, they will have to block the sidewalk or the trail, depending on which side of the street they are on.”

Fellow resident Julie Werner expressed the general concern about the quality of materials O’Brien is proposing to use on the outer surfaces of the Meridian buildings, which would be partly brick and partly hardboard siding.

“I’m concerned about what it will look like in 10 years,” Werner said. “We want to try for a little better quality. We don’t want Mt. Juliet to turn into another Antioch.”

She also complained that the 3,200 square feet proposed for retail space in Meridian is “nothing.”

Bob Potter, also an area resident, agreed. “We want to see a little more retail street frontage,” he said.

Tiffany Vaughn, who also lives on Providence Trail, said, “3,200 square feet is not enough. There should be shops all along Providence Trail.”

In the end, the planners voted 4-2 to turn down the Meridian plan, with Planning Commission Chair Luke Winchester and Commissioner Kelly Morgan voting to approve it. At which point, O’Brien asked to defer his other project, Baird Farm, until next month.

Neighbors also opposed the rezoning of two pieces of land on Lebanon Road, but the planners voted in favor of the change. The property located between Glenwood Drive and Tate Lane is owned by Dave Braunschidel, who proposed changing the zoning for 7.48 acres from two forms of residential and two forms of Planned Unit Developmemt (PUD) to Commercial Residential Center (CRC).

Braunschidel has already developed two commercial buildings across Tate Lane from the site. He said he wants to build three office/retail buildings on the site. The rest of the land between the two roads would be residential, with lots measuring about an acre.

Jim Ridings, who lives in an adjacent house, is concerned about what effect the development would have on the neighborhood. “Why destroy this residential pocket?” he said. “We want it to stay residential.”

Several of his neighbors agreed that the change would affect their quality of life and possibly lower the value of their property. But the commissioners voted 5-2 to recommend the change to the City Commission, with Morgan and Planning Commissioner Brian Abston opposed.

In contrast, the planners unanimously approved a plan for city services, annexation and the preliminary master plan for Beckwith Farms West.

The plan calls for five industrial/warehouse buildings ranging from 450,000 to 1 million square feet on 261.05 acres between Eastgate Boulevard and Hunting Hills Drive.

Like the Premier dealership paperwork, the industrial park plan easily jumped its next hurdle, which was the first reading Monday night of an ordinance to annex the acreage and change its zoning from Wilson County residential (R-1) to Mt. Juliet industrial-restrictive Planned Unit Development (I-R PUD), since the new park is within the city’s urban growth boundary.

The city commissioners passed the annexation and rezoning ordinance for Beckwith Farms West, phase 2, unanimously.

The Planning Commission also approved an amendment Thursday night to Mt. Juliet Commons preliminary master plan, phase 1, by a 6-1 vote, with Commissioner Art Giles opposed. If the City Commission also approves the amendment, it would allow the developers to start construction of the townhouses in the section where infrastructure has already been completed while the entry road from Lebanon Road is built.

In other action, the Planning Commission also approved:

  • The final plat for Tuscan Gardens, phase 11, at Napoli and Glen Trail drives.
  • The final plat for Wright Farms, sections 10 and 3-C, off Central Pike.
  • A design waiver to allow Norman Chrisman to maintain a greenhouse for 1 year on his property on Lebanon Road.
  • The site plan to allow a “meat and 3” restaurant at 11381 Lebanon Road.
  • Rezoning the 2.6-acre Bass property at 3761 North Mt. Juliet Road, adjoining the new city Police Department headquarters on Charlie Daniels Parkway, from residential (RS-40) to Commercial Town Center (CTC).

Staff Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at

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