Admitting they might be a scourge on social media, Mt. Juliet city planners put their nix on a cup of Joe when they decided not to recommend the Northtown Starbucks project Thursday night.
Despite the negative nod, the project will still track to the Mt. Juliet City Commission to iron out "concerns" about traffic flow at the proposed site on Lebanon Road where Dollar General once occupied before it was wiped out in the Jan. 30, 2013, tornado.
Other wrinkles planners want smoothed include possibly downsizing additional proposed uses on the 2.49-acre site. Along with the 1,849-square-foot Starbucks building, site plans call for two additional buildings at 2,700 and 2,500 square feet. Their uses were not revealed at the meeting.
Mt. Juliet Municipal and Regional Planning Commission Chair Luke Winchester prefaced his concerns to say he was not a civil engineer or surveyor, but as a father of young, soon-to-be drivers, he had major issues with the ingress and egress plans for the Starbucks.
"I am concerned with the traffic patterns, and I see great problems in it," said Winchester.
Planners said they wanted "direct access to a stoplight," so patrons would not have to cross Lebanon Road to visit the coffee shop, and, also suggested "losing" the third building so there's more room to configure an easy traffic flow not only within the site, but getting to and leaving there.
"We need a better flow and connectivity," said Winchester. "I don't think as it is, it is a safe layout."
Starbucks could pull plan altogether
A Starbucks representative from Design Engineering addressed the concerns and at one point expressed the project could ultimately be pulled.
"Starbucks is ready to sign the lease based on this layout," he said. "They could pull out. The intention of the final plan is full circulation of it, with signage and pavement markings."
Mt. Juliet Mayor and Planning Member Ed Hagerty agreed there would be a lot of traffic to the place with people "heading to work."
"There needs to be full access to the traffic light," he said.
Mt. Juliet Public Works Director Jessica Gore said originally she and her staff were concerned with the "one way traffic," but "the client insisted on the layout."
She said the project was brought forth so planning commissioners could hash it out.
"We knew it would be discussed on the floor," she said.
Her assistant, Andy Barlow, noted while he didn't see any alternative with the three buildings included, "it could work with possible signage and striping."
"Yes, there will be violations with people going the wrong way," he said.
Justice pleads for conditional approval
District 1 City Commissioner Ray Justice attended the meeting. The project is in his north Mt. Juliet district. He told planners the original Dollar General Building was metal.
"I am trying to bring up the district, and if you approve this, that will be one of the ways," he said.
"I don't want to wind up with a wipeout of Starbucks, and then wind up with what we've had there before. I'm asking you to help us."
Hagerty said when they wear their "planning hats" they will be "blasted" for turning this down, "but we'll be blasted if there are a lot of wrecks there."
Winchester said he didn't want to slow the project down, but "someone qualified" needed to step forth with advice.
Justice asked the planners for a conditional approval to send the project to city commissioners.
However, while ultimately planners gave Starbucks a negative recommendation, it will go before city commissioners anyway for them to clean up the concerns.
Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at email@example.com.