In an organized protest against proposed townhomes near their Northtown Mt. Juliet neighborhood, dozens of residents waved yellow flyers that said "no" at Monday's city commission meeting.
Tension was high in city chambers packed with vocal citizens concerned by a developer's request to rezone about 51 acres for 313 townhomes acres near Park Glen Subdivision just south of Lebanon Road. After citizen comments and some discussion, commissioners unanimously shot down the request, effectively killing the project.
City commissioners moved up the agenda item to address it immediately. On the heels of a Dec. 15 unanimous negative recommendation by the Mt. Juliet Regional Planning Commission, commissioners contemplated developer Danny Wamble & Associates' request to approve the Preliminary Master Development Plan (PMDP) for The Villas at Tuscan Gardens. The request was to change the current RS-10 (Residential Single-Family) zoning to RE-8 PUD that would allow the townhomes. The 51 acres are located on Park Glen Drive.
The determined neighbors who did not want the project have spoken out at previous meetings as well. Briana Bays was the major spokesperson for the group who held high bright yellow flyers that said, "Northtown MJ says NO!"
"We have been at the September and December meetings against Tuscan Gardens, and we will be at all meetings," she said.
She was passionate in her plea to quash the project proposed in what she said was "already overcrowded area."
Bays brought up the lack of infrastructure to support 313 townhomes and said currently it's hard to simply walk down the street in that area. Neighbors noted they were at first given the impression the project might be just a "few select townhomes."
Spokespeople for the developer presented their project and said the project would be beautiful two-story homes with court yards and green areas.
Another protester noted concern about flooding and traffic. He lives near Woodridge Place.
"We don't need any more homes in this area," he said.
The developer responded to say they were there to hear and open to "communication and compromise."
Commissioner Ray Justice represents the district. He was blunt. While he said he spent time with the deputy public works director discussing widening Lebanon Road, he shook his head and said, "Not 313 townhomes."
"What part about this didn't you understand," he asked the developer. "He got nine minutes, there's no need to discuss this. I hate that you wasted your time coming here."
He noted the project reps wanted feedback.
"You got your feedback and you will have additional feedback in the vote."
That subsequent vote was unanimous to kill the project. City officials confirmed while this was a first reading for the rezone, the presented project is dead. If developers want to resurrect their project they will have to start from scratch.
- In other business, City Commissioner Brian Abston noted the southtown Starbucks is now open after many months of negotiations to get the developer to agree to build a second access into the strip mall. He said Moe's will open there by the end of this month.
- Mt. Juliet City Manager Kenneth Martin carved out a bit of time to give kudos to the mayor and commissioners. He talked about their dedicated service to the city and their constituents, then presented each of them with a glass plaque with their name and a quote from Theodore Roosevelt that reads, "What a man does for himself dies with him. What he does for his community lives long after he is gone." Some of the commissioners proudly shared the plaque on social media after the meeting.
- Mt. Juliet Police Chief James Hambrick named police employee Mindy Knight "2016 Employee of the Year." She was also December 2016's employee of the month.
"She's the perfect example of a wonderful employee," he said of her.
Hambrick noted because of her good work ethic, she uncovered an error by the Department of Safety that in the long run saved the city about $780,000, in addition to helping other jurisdictions notice the oversight as well.
- An ordinance was approved to accept a donation for Eagle Park in the amount of $10,720. This bicycle safety learning park on West Division was an Eagle Scout project by John Forth. Commissioner Art Giles said the donation will go toward a parking lot there.
- Commissioners unanimously voted to waive fees in the amount of $2,180 for the building permit, plan review, and plumbing permit fees in the construction of the St. Jude Home in Jackson Hills, constructed by Signature Homes.
Writer Laurie Everett can be reached at email@example.com