In order not to violate the existing Land Use Plan for the area of the proposed controversial Beckwith North project in West Wilson, the scheduled second Mt. Juliet City Commission reading for the project was deferred yet again Monday night.
An amended Land Use Plan at the Planning Commission level allowing the project must be approved before a second City Commission reading, or it will be a violation, according to Attorney Jim White.
He represents a group of neighbors opposing the 1-million-square-foot warehouse on 55.76 acres near their long-established neighborhood on Hunting Hills Drive - in the urban boundary of Mt. Juliet. Developers want to annex the property into the city and have it rezoned for industrial use. The current Land Use Plan most also be amended to allow Beckwith North. This has yet to happen.
However, Monday night the city commission did allow for citizen's comments on the issue, which confused neighbors protesting the project. They said they were unprepared with a contingent of protesters because they thought the entire item was delayed and many didn't show up.
"The process for the second hearing of Beckwith North was very confusing for us," said resident Lori Peek. "I am not sure if it makes sense to have citizens on the agenda to speak for an item that is not going to be heard at the hearing for a vote."
White said he was told the commission allowed for citizen's comments because the second reading announcement had been advertised already.
"The Land Use Plan had not been considered yet officially at the planning level," White said. "For them to go forward with the second reading would mean violation of the existing Land Use Plan."
For the past few months about 40 residents on Hunting Hills have gathered forces to fight the Panatonni-developed proposed warehouse. Dubbed Beckwith North, the proposed development is near Under Armour, and possibly more warehouses on that property, also near the neighborhood.
Recently, the Mt. Juliet Planning Commission voted 4-4 giving essentially a negative recommendation for the 23-acre main warehouse project. However, it tracked to the Mt. Juliet City Commission and was approved 4-1 with discussion about further negotiations.
Peek said she was not informed, "The issue was Beckwith North would be on the agenda and that our neighborhood could speak during this time.
"This was not told to us until Monday the day of the BOC Hearing," she said. "I feel this was unfair."
White said some people had planned to speak Monday night to object the project, but when told the item was not going to be heard, made other plans.
"The fact they were not there because of confusion and did not speak is a serious problem," he said.
Representative for the project said there had been some changes to the project during the approval phase, including moving the warehouse 150 feet further away, downward lighting on one end, a 15-foot berm with trees planted and a pre-blast survey.
Resident Jerry McKenzie attended the meeting Monday and was one of few who did speak. He said the concessions were like "arranging deck chairs on the Titanic."
He noted the suggestion made at one point during meetings that another use of the land would be starter homes and massive traffic through Hunting Hills was not a fair solution.
A representative for Civil Site Design, who also represents the project said, "We are trying to address concerns and still continue to meet with the neighbors."
In an interview Tuesday morning, White said the issue is "simply whether a long-standing rural residential neighborhood will be destroyed in the interest of building a 1-million-square-foot warehouse adjacent to it."
He said the "structures," meaning the berm and tress intended to "hide it," are "huge features which are also not compatible with the neighborhood."
He said he would be at the Planning Commission's June 18 meeting to represent the neighbors. The city commission's second reading is now scheduled for June 22.
Writer Laurie Everett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.