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Event center passes first round

By Caitlin Rickard crickard@lebanondemocrat.com • Updated Nov 20, 2013 at 12:05 PM

The Lebanon City Council met Tuesday where citizens and councilors alike had a lot to say regarding the proposed Cumberland Center Development District.

After a three-hour public meeting Monday for citizens to address questions and see plans, many still turned out Tuesday for the vote on the proposed CCDD and to express their feelings to the council.

Bob O’Brien said he went to the public forum Monday, and he learned a lot from the session.

“Development in Lebanon is inevitable, not just for the property in question, but for the city in general,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien said what he didn’t like about the proposed CCDD was that the funding would force government to get into private enterprise, and the funding would be ongoing and forever.

“No government should get into the business of private enterprise,” O’Brien said. “I’m in favor of the event center and development, I’m just not in favor of government getting into private enterprise.”

Larry Hubbard said he’s lived in Lebanon a long time, and he’s watched as the city as, in the past, give up developments.

“I’ve watched Gallatin outgrow us. I’ve watched Mt. Juliet blow us out of the saddle,” Hubbard said.

Hubbard disagreed with O’Brien’s sentiment and said Murfreesboro put in its event center with government money, and it blossomed.

“We’ve got something at council’s feet that can grow us. Government has to spend money and get involved to grow,” Hubbard said. “This is something we need to build our city up. We can’t just sit on our hands and watch things grow around us. We’ve got to make a decision to move Lebanon forward.”

Beulah Garrett said she’s watched the city grow and loves the growth. In the past she said she was excited when plans for development were on the table.

Garrett said she knew groups in the city that were always looking for banquet space, and by having graduation for three area high schools in Nashville, the city was losing money.

“Businesses that will come will more than pay for the tax increases,” Garrett said. “I’m more than willing to raise taxes to grow the city. Unless we expand, we’re not going to grow as a city.”

Mayor Philip Craighead said he saw the CCDD as something unique that would make the city stand out and make people want to visit and move to Lebanon.

“This will make us different and appealing,” Craighead said. “There’s some risk, but there’s always risk.”

Councilor Rob Cesternino said there were so many great things going on in Lebanon—such as the Starbucks and Amazon distribution centers—and the council needed to be forward thinking and go ahead with the CCDD plans.

“We’re not putting shovels in the ground tomorrow. We as a council control the money so we can stop at any time if we think things are going in the wrong direction,” Cesternino said. “This is simply letting the mayor get started on the plans and I think we owe it to him to support his ideas.

“To me, there’s not enough information to say no at this stage,” Cesternino said.

Councilor Tick Bryan said he’s lived in Lebanon his entire life and didn’t move here from somewhere else, But he said it’s important to note others did and others are.

“We’ve got an opportunity knocking, but we’ve got to open the door,” Bryan said.

Bryan also said he wanted to support this for the children of Lebanon.

“What will we have to offer our grandchildren?” Bryan said. “We need to think ahead and make an investment in our community like Murfreesboro did, and they’ve been very successful. There’s no reason we can’t do the same. It’s a no-brainer to me.”

The ordinance on the agenda is set to establish a local community development fund representing an equivalent amount of property tax increases and sales tax obtained in the CCDD for the purpose of funding development improvements and development in general of the district.

Council voted unanimously 6-0 on first reading to pass the proposed plans for the CCDD.

Council is set to hold a work session on the CCDD before its next meeting, and Craighead also said he would hold another public forum so more people from the community could come and get questions answered.

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