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Neighbors protest mammoth facility proposed for their area

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Upset residents told Mt. Juliet planners a mammoth industrial facility proposed in their "backyard" will diminish quality of life and lower property values.

More than a half dozen residents who live on Hunting Hills Drive voiced their opinions to convince members of the Mt. Juliet Planning Commission to vote against Beckwith North, a 1-million-square-foot facility (there is not client commitment to date) on 55.76 acres proposed near Under Armour on Eastgate Boulevard. Federal Express is also in the vicinity of the industrial park that is adjacent to Hunting Hills Drive.

At the meeting, Beckwith North developer Panattoni asked for the project parcel to be annexed into the city and rezoned to IR PUD (industrial restrictive planned unit development.)

Resident Jerry McKenzie has lived on Hunting Hills Drive 20 years. He's retired and lives on 5 acres in a 3,500-square-foot home.

"The landowner wins, the city wins and we lose," he said. "Imagine living there. There are no trees or natural barriers to disguise a 50-foot tall building. A 7-foot fence and 8-foot trees? We need much more to screen it from us."

He said he meet with Panattoni's Hayne Hamilton to discuss concerns.

"There's going to be lots of noise and headlights," he said. "He offered to help address our concerns, but there was nothing specific. It's a mammoth operation right next to our house."

After additional neighbors pleaded their case, the commissioners' deadlocked 4-4 vote was determined to be a negative recommendation for the project. However, the proposal will track to Mt. Juliet city commissioners for further debate.

Others unhappy with ideas to buffer development
Hamilton was at the meeting, along with his representative from Civil Site Design Group. They brought up several specifics and improvements to address the residents' concerns. They mentioned installing a 7-foot high fence and trees they said would screen the facility.

"We will also beef up the 100-foot buffer with a triple row of Cypress trees," he said. "We are committed to extensive buffering."

And while he mentioned a special plan to block lighting and "bringing the land down 20 to 30 feet, neighbors felt these concessions didn't address the bigger picture of yet another industrial facility right next to where they enjoyed "peace and tranquility" and where they had "hoped to live out" their lives.

Thirty-year Hunting Hills Drive resident Janet Devine said Under Armour is under construction now and is her nearest neighbor. She said now another facility is proposed.

"I don't need an alarm clock," she said. "Already I hear the beep-beep of trucks."

Devine said, "We can't expect them to build a China Wall."

She said when someone spends their life savings on a home, "the last thing you want on Saturday is to be wakened by second shift trucks."

Resident Cynthia begged the commissioners to take a "field trip" to their neighborhood.

"I thought it was paradise... turkeys and wildlife," she said. "Go down and take a look and imagine a big facility in your back yard. I don't think we can stop it, and it's our lifestyles."

Austin Peek came into town to speak on behalf of his mother. He said he grew up in the area.

"I didn't realize the magnitude of this," he said. "It can't be hidden. A 7-foot fence won't stop anything. This is taking it too far. I don't want the area to lose its identity. It's one of the last pieces of Mt. Juliet you feel away from the hustle and bustle. This is unbelievable to me."

He urged commissioners to vote against it. And though the planners effectively gave the project a negative recommendation, per protocol it will still track to the Mt. Juliet city commission for consideration.

Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at laurieeverett1@gmail.com.

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