Though Mt. Juliet commissioners said their vote was "heart wrenching" and not "taken lightly," they approved on first reading a proposed massive warehouse near an established neighborhood Monday.
With vocal Mt. Juliet neighbors wearing "Vote No" shirts and their legal representation in chambers, commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of the project. For months residents galvanized to fight the 1-million-square-foot warehouse called Beckwith North.
The Panattoni Development Company project near Hunting Hills Drive on 55 acres is also near Under Armour, which is also currently under construction. In order to develop the land it needs to be annexed into the city and rezoned. It's currently in the Urban Growth Boundary. The residents oppose the project and say it will devalue their homes and quality of life.
Neighbor Debbie Plott said the positive vote was a bitter pill to swallow after a couple months of petitions, meetings with the developers and two deferrals.
"Everyone in our group completely expected tonight's result," she said after the meeting. "While we're disappointed, no one is surprised at the result. We felt the commissioners were completely dismissive of our concerns. There again, we did expect they would do what they did. They did not shock us."
District 1 Commissioner Ray Justice was the lone "no" vote. He said he was on the receiving end of a negative development near his home.
"I know the helplessness is overwhelming," he said.
He wanted the project to go back to planning to work out minimizing the size of the building.
Commissioner Brian Abston said his vote was "gut wrenching."
"A lot of what we do is not easy," he said. "We want to do what is right for the majority of the people."
Developers said the warehouse would bring thousands of jobs to Mt. Juliet. Abston said he wanted "to do what is right." He noted he felt the neighborhood was split down the middle.
"Half don't want the warehouse and the other half don't want a cut-through."
He was referring to the proposition that if the warehouse was not built, most likely a subdivision will be developed on the acreage that will bring cut-through traffic on Hunting Hills Drive.
"I apologize," he said. "It's a tough decision. It's not our land. We didn't sell it. We have to make the vote and it tears me up inside."
Mayor Ed Hagerty said it was a "conflicting vote."
He said the landowner has every right to sell. He said if the warehouse wasn't built the land would most likely turn into a subdivision with "perhaps 150 or up to 600 homes."
"You won't want that," he said. "If I lived on that street I'd want it locked into a cul-de-sac. The fear won't be as bad as you think it will be."
He added later the vote was for the "good of the many," and 1,500 jobs were in consideration.
Developer explains some of the revisions
Developer Hayne Hamilton went over some of the changes that evolved to get the project approved that includes moving the building a bit, a larger berm, a screen of Cypress trees, "downward lighting," no vehicle access to Hunting Hills Drive, a pre-blast survey and transitional landscaping.
After the meeting the neighbors' attorney Jim White said the next step is for the residents to meet and "decide how they can protect the value of their property."
Resident Lori Peek said they need to figure out their options.
"There were no agreements on our part to the concessions," she said "We may petition the court.
A lot was said tonight that was not factual."
Hamilton said he would continue to meet with the neighbors if they wanted. There is no named user for the proposed warehouse.
Second reading is scheduled for June 8.
Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.