They wore t-shirts that said "Vote No" and "Save Mt. Juliet" at a special called meeting last week by the developer who wants to build a massive warehouse near their neighborhood. The result was a deferment of the project until April 26 so further discussions and concessions can go forth.
The meeting took place Thursday evening at Hampton Inn in Mt. Juliet, and more than 50 residents showed up to listen to developer representatives Hayne and Wayne Hamilton's possible concessions.
The neighbors don't want a 1-million-square-foot warehouse called Beckwith North built right next to their neighborhood that is in the county, but is requested to be rezoned and annexed into the city so the warehouse operation can move forward.
"It's like you are trying to hide an elephant behind a fence post," said one resident.
The meeting was cordial, but tense at times, as neighbors questioned the notification process for the project and talked about "trust issues" with the city and developer because of what they thought was a "botched" process with perhaps wrong addresses on letters sent to notify and a sign posted a quarter mile away from the neighborhood.
Wayne Hamilton told the residents they would put a buffer, with trees and a berm, to hide the proposed warehouse, as well as move the building a bit further away. The neighbors complained about the current Under Armour project and its noise already near their neighborhood. It's also a Panattoni development, the same developer as the proposed Beckwith North.
"We realize it's noisy, but it's temporary," said Hayne Hamilton. "It will go away."
Resident Connie Mitchell talked about how property values will drastically reduce with a warehouse in their midst. She said a local real estate estimated her home's value would drop 25 percent if the warehouse was built.
"I respect you," she said. "But I've been here 30 years, and I'm in paradise now. You can't compare other projects to Mt. Juliet."
Hamilton said they've done similar projects in other communities, with "none of the proposed buffering."
"It's done well in South Park in Smyrna," he said.
The residents responded with a resound no and said South Park is not a similar comparison.
"I thought I had a beautiful place to live," said resident Lynna Hollis. "I moved here for this reason."
Jerry McKenzie lives the closest to the proposed warehouse.
"We are encircled with commercial," he said. "You've already built on the property behind me. I've worn the city out with memos. I have trust issues."
Hamilton said there was "no intent to deceive anyone," and if there were trust issues, perhaps the project should go back to planning.
Resident Julie Wharton said she's lived at her home for 13 years and is four houses away from the proposed Under Armour facility. She said her windows and foundation shake from that enterprise's construction.
Shelia Luckett, with the city, said notifying citizens was a courtesy, however, she said perhaps the notification process could have been more accurate and the placing of the sign to notify was where they "thought was best."
Another resident asked why the developer could not just "go somewhere else like the Highway109/ State Route 840 area."
"It was a good first meeting," resident Debbie Plott said. "I believe it was an eye-opener for Panattoni to see how important communication, or the lack thereof, is. They have some work to do to earn our trust."
Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty attended the meeting, as well as commissioners Brian Abston and Ray Justice. Justice said he met with the developers and they discussed moving the building to diminish the appearance. Hayne Hamilton said they could not move the building too much because the area around it was already committed to other projects. Justice suggested scaling down the size of the building.
At one point there was a question about perhaps another project on the land for sale. A developer stood up to say there could be a possibility of "starter homes" in the area there. Residents asked why "starter" homes and not elite homes?
The meeting ended with comments from the residents' lawyer Jim White. He addressed the "trust" issues.
On Saturday, residents were in the Mt. Juliet City Hall parking lot selling t-shirts and getting petition signatures. They have collected hundreds. Justice said he feels things will be worked out.
"Panattoni has always delivered a quality project and has always taken into consideration the environment," Justice said. "I anticipate they will work just as hard during this process to make sure Hunting Hills residents are protected."
Writer Laurie Everett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org