Mt. Juliet planners weren't pleased enough to recommend a project as-is that could bring as many as 2,000 jobs on East Division Street.
A proposed preliminary master development plan and rezone request for a 163-acre business park on East Division Street and along Rutland Drive got a negative recommendation from Mt. Juliet Planners Commission Thursday night.
They were concerned about park related traffic on the future Eastern Connector, a road project that is essential for the success of the project, as well as possible traffic on Rutland Drive and East Division Street, among other expressed reservations. Also, the meeting was packed with disgruntled residents who live right near the proposed business park.
Even though the planning commission gave a negative recommendation to the plan, the project, called Park 40, will still go before Mt. Juliet city commissioners soon.
The zoning request was from the current OPS (Office and Professional Services) to I-R PUD (Industrial Restrictive).
What is Park 40?
Representatives for the developer said the proposed park would have four buildings that range in size from 207,360 square feet to 1.7 million square feet, a size that rivals Under Armour at nearby Beckwith Farms.
Project representative Kurt Nelson said the company that wants to develop the park is in association with Ross Perot Jr., son of 1992 presidential candidate Ross Perot.
"It is a national company that has developed about 50 million square feet of this type before," he said. "When we say we will do it, we will do it right. The company has integrity. It is a good project for the community. It really is a business park with lots of glass, stone and landscaping."
He said the business park would bring an estimated annual $1 million in property taxes, and up to 2,000 jobs.
"We have two Fortune 100 companies interested," said the representative. "We've already met with one and you would be proud. It will bring 400-500 jobs alone, we just need to get this zoned."
Future Eastern Connector critical
The business park is planned around the future Eastern Connector, according to Mt. Juliet Deputy Public Works Director Andy Barlow. He said the road project will be bid in the next couple months and construction will immediately follow.
"The road [Eastern Connector] will be highly incentivized. It should be complete by the end of the year," said Barlow.
According to Mayor Ed Hagerty, the Eastern Connector will run from Beckwith to Benders Ferry Road. It will be four lanes.
Reservations about the project
Hagerty said he was conflicted with the project.
"I never envisioned the Eastern Connector to have immense truck traffic," he said. "It was to relieve traffic from North Mt. Juliet Road, and now we know there will probably be trucks. But, then again I know there will be over 1,000 jobs out there, too. It's dwelling on me."
Representatives of the project said there would be no real reason trucks associated with Park 40 to head toward central Mt. Juliet, but rather quickly get on Interstate 40.
Planning commissioners, as well as city administration, were very concerned and do not want the park to directly access Rutland Drive and East Division Street. The applicant originally agreed to restrict access at Rutland and staff responded to advise the development have access to the Eastern Connector only.
City staff recommendations
Many residents who live on Rutland voiced their objection to the business park that will be close to their homes and increase traffic on East Division Street, which is two lanes, curvy and in poor condition in many areas.
Barlow told planners city staff recommended approval of the annexation, rezoning and preliminary PUD and Development plan with some conditions. He advised the site be restricted to warehousing goods; transport and storage as listed in the zoning ordinance; no outdoor storage allowed; exclusive access to the Eastern Connector with no direct access to East Division Street or Rutland Drive; Phase 2 construction located on the north side of the Eastern Connector will not begin until the completion of Phase 1; and existing vegetation located behind Building C be preserved as much as possible to provide a buffer for homes located along Rutland Drive.
He also recommended 5-foot sidewalks along East Division and Rutland and the south side of the Eastern Connector, and a 10 foot wide paved multi-use trail along the northern side of the Eastern Connector, as well as an earthen berm on the north side of the Eastern Connector to "shield the 48 dock doors from view, along with some other recommendations.
Nearby residents oppose project
It's that "view of the docks," and the close proximity to their homes that have residents upset.
"When we came here we were told the land would be built out as the rest of the subdivision," said one irate resident. "We will have loading docks pointed at our neighborhood. I'm more concerned with the noise. What is going to be done about noise abatement?"
One female resident who lives on Rutland Drive said when she moved there it was "a nice quiet place." Now, she said, she hears "beeping" from machines backing up and "truck traffic all around." This is from the Panattoni Development nearby.
"I've lived there forever, and you are forcing us out," she said. "You leave us no option. You brought us into the city, and the only privilege we have is paying taxes...I don't appreciate being treated like this as a long-time citizen."
Resident Mike Utley also referred to the Panattoni development at Beckwith Farms nearby.
"I've had damage under my home that happened this past year," he said, referring to cracks from nearby blasting.
He said now there will be even more blasting.
When Hagerty said the city had no control over the construction of the Eastern Connector, the developer's representative said, "We don't want our buildings without the Eastern Connector."
"There will be no construction work or paving until the connector is completed," he said.
He told the residents they had planned to "knock on doors" to explain things, but the bad weather hit. He said they had addressed the PUD aesthetics; made sure there would be no smoke stacks and there would be a clean operation; agreed to larger setbacks; to build a greenway to the FedEx building; put in a buffer; delay Phase 2 until Phase 1 was complete; and to keep construction traffic off Rutland Drive.
"It's a great project for the community and we'd like your support so we can move forward," he said.
A traffic study is in progress and it will reveal more specifics, said Planning Chair Luke Winchester.
The representative did eventually agree they would keep construction traffic off East Division, as well, while the Eastern Connector was being built.
Additionally, planners asked there be no occupancy at the park until the Eastern Connector is complete.
The plan will move to the Mt. Juliet City Commission in the near future.
Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at email@example.com.