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Mayor holds final forum

Sara McManamy-Johnson sjohnson@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 17, 2015 at 5:34 PM

Lebanon’s mayor fielded questions Monday in his final public forum about a proposed event center.

Monday’s forum was the second held to answer community members’ questions about a plan do develop an entertainment district and city-run event center.

The proposed site for the Cumberland Center is off Cumberland Street at Interstate 40 exit 238.

The development attracted Logan’s Roadhouse and the Boot Barn, respectively, within the past year.

When the plan was first pitched in 2011, it was to be a more-than-700-acre entertainment district, featuring office space, retail stores and restaurants, as well as a $40 million, 150,000-square-foot event center with two ice rinks, one of which would be the home ice for a Central Hockey League franchise.

Though the planned amenities haven’t changed much, except to possibly add a higher-end motel, the area itself has decreased to 257 acres in the latest plans. Plans also call for a future road connecting Legends Drive with Briskine Lane and dissecting the property. 

Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead said tourism and corporate office opportunities are the current focus of his administration.

“As Lebanon and Wilson County continue to prosper, our responsibilities become greater, and with that comes the responsibility on leadership to find ways in which to nurture and encourage new and different kinds of growth for our community,” Craighead said. “I’m excited about the possibilities in which the Cumberland Center Development District can impact our future. This plan comes in several phases with some decisions being left for future leaders. What is being achieved today is laying the foundation to find ways to fund issues, which come with continued growth and improvement.

“[Wilson County] Mayor [Randall] Hutto and I, through several meetings and many discussions with community leaders, feel this development will help achieve the goals needed to supplement some of our future revenue needs while providing quality entertainment venues and providing a strong recruiting tool to attract future corporate entities to Wilson County.”

Lebanon resident Bob O’Brien said that although he supports the basic premise of the project, he doesn’t believe government should be involved in an ongoing business operation.

The proposed multi-use event center would be government-owned under the proposed plan.

He said that unlike in private industry, where the people making day-to-day decisions have “skin in the game,” or their own money at risk, a government-owned enterprise wouldn’t have that financial incentive needed for it to thrive.

Councilor Rob Cesternino, who represents the ward in which the district would be located, disagreed. He said the city’s investment in the event center at the core of the district would help draw developers to district.

“The city’s essentially rolling up their sleeves and telling the private investors that we’ve got skin in the game, too,” said Cesternino.

On Nov. 19, councilors approved on first reading an ordinance that would create a fund for improvements in and development of the district.

Council is set to discuss the issue further during a work session at 5 p.m. Tuesday before considering it on second reading that evening at 6 p.m.

Also in Tuesday’s meeting, councilors will consider on a second reading an ordinance to amend the 2013-2014 budget to include a one-step raise for employees.

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