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Development under scrutiny halted
Jul 12, 2006 12:00 am
July 6, 2006 – The approval process of a Lebanon development under scrutiny by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and district attorney's office will be indefinitely delayed until the investigation is completed.
Citing a request from District Attorney General Tommy Thompson, Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath said a work session with developers of Chestnut Ridge planned for July 18 will be canceled with no future date set.
Thompson confirmed he had counseled Warmath not to take more action on the development. He said the possibility of undue influence from mayoral assistant Debbie Jessen and the subsequent investigation warrant delaying the process until all questions have been answered.
"I realize these developers … have a lot of money at stake, but … why have an investigation if (the Council is) going to go ahead and do what is wanted?" Thompson said Wednesday.
Saying no precise date to reconsider the development has been considered, Warmath explained the investigation should take precedence over approving the development
"I didn't want to do anything to jeopardize any kind of law enforcement efforts and neither does the Council," Warmath said Wednesday. "Having said that, I was just advised to not address it at this point."
Jessen is the real estate agent for Chestnut Ridge, a 252-unit development – with 112 being single-family detached units – on 116 acres of land known as the Luther Agee property.
The Bethlehem Road development is in Warmath's ward.
Aside from the possible conflict of interest, Warmath said issues still exist with the planning process itself which must be resolved before she could support the project.
"I would still be raising … concern about the water," Warmath said regarding the drainage issues that have hung up the development at the Council. "That water is a detrimental issue to that particular subdivision. There's no way around that. And I even shared with (the developer), if they were to come back with another zoning which might not be so dense, I still would have to understand and be very comfortable that they had made every concession for potential water damage over there.
Lebanon City Planner Magi Tilton said last month the planned unit development (PUD) was filed Jan. 25 and passed the Planning Commission on Feb. 28.
It first appeared on the Lebanon City Council's agenda March 21 and has been deferred twice since then.
Ward 3 Councilor William Farmer cautioned the two-lane Bethlehem Road may not yet be able to handle that much additional traffic.
"We've got a responsibility to try to resolve whatever (the developers) have asked for," Farmer said. "… Now we've got these questions about what happened and when did it happen and who was involved, and that's a different matter."
And while he was not aware of the planned cancellation of the work session, Ward 1 Alex Buhler said he wouldn't contest, adding it was a matter of courtesy.
"Out of respect for all the Council members up there, if they want to defer something in their ward … as a courtesy to them I usually go along until they address their concerns," Buhler said.
Warmath said she would officially address the issue at the Council's next meeting.
Staff Writer Jason Cox can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 45 or by e-mail at email@example.com.