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MJ rezoning vote held up by protests

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Neighbors want Greenhill site kept residential
MT. JULIET – The continued protests of neighbors prompted the Mt. Juliet City Commission to postpone voting on the second reading of an ordinance rezoning about 7.5 acres on Lebanon Road Monday night, Aug. 11.

The original request to change the zoning from a complicated mixture of residential and Planned Unit Development (PUD) to Commercial Retail Center (CRC) was made by Dave Braunscheidel for Greenhill Development Properties.

It was approved on first reading by the City Commission last month, after winning the Planning Commission’s recommendation by a 5-2 vote in June. Braunscheidel reminded the City Commission Monday night that the area is in the city land use plan as commercial and has been designated that way for about 20 years – as is most property fronting on Lebanon Road.

Braunscheidel has potential national partners in the development, he said, and he needs to have it properly zoned before he can close a deal with them.

But neighboring residents oppose the change in the edge of their “quiet residential neighborhood.” At Monday night’s meeting, 9 of about 20 neighboring residents present at the meeting spoke up against the rezoning.

Jim Ridings of Luvon Court said, “I oppose the change, because the new entrance would create more traffic problems in an already-dangerous area of Lebanon Road.”  

There are already several commercial spaces available for lease in the area between the city limits and Greenhill Road, Ridings added. “We don’t need more,” he said.

Resident Tom Bontrager had a slightly different idea. He asked the commissioners to consider rezoning only the front half of the property, leaving the back section which adjoins the residential area zoned as it currently is, half medium-density residential (RS-10) and half low-density residential (RS-40).

“The area is surrounded on three sides by residential,” Bontrager said. “Please don’t rezone the rear portion. Then it would blend in with the neighborhood.”

The other neighbors who spoke Monday night each seemed to echo these thoughts. They asked the commissioners not to allow commercial development virtually in their backyards.

Braunscheidel said he understands their concerns and has already agreed to leave all of the mature trees in buffering areas, as well as planting additional ones required by the city. He added that he has been working with City Planner Bo Logan since the beginning.

“I’m following the city’s plan for this property,” he said.

Following the public discussion, District 2 Commissioner and Vice Mayor James Maness moved to approve the requested rezoning on second reading, and District 1 Commissioner Ray Justice seconded his motion.

Next, District 4 Commissioner Jim Bradshaw moved to amend the ordinance to require the developer to bring it back as a new Planned Unit Development (PUD).

But Braunscheidel said he isn’t sure he can do that, since how the site develops will depend on whom he develops it with.

Mayor Ed Hagerty then suggested that the commission could approve the changes to the front half of the property, but not the back.

However, Justice said he doesn’t think it’s a good idea for the commission to “arbitrarily subdivide the man’s property,” and asked for a deferral to allow Braunscheidel to study the situation and come up with a solution.
With the developer’s agreement, the matter was deferred until Sept. 8, with plans to set up a meeting between the neighbors, Justice and Braunscheidel.

In other action, the commission unanimously voted to approve on second reading:
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).

Allowing churches with conditional use permits that allow them to occupy structures that weren’t originally built as churches to renew their permits for three-year terms repeatedly, instead of only once.

Accepting $25,000 from Wilson County Schools as part of the funding needed to build a sidewalk leading to Mt. Juliet High School.

The $25,000 will help build the sidewalk along the east side of Golden Bear Gateway, where a guard rail currently forces students to walk in the road, in a traffic lane, as they travel to and from school.

Correspondent Connie Esh may be contacted at cewrites@yahoo.com.

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