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Squires respond to criticism
Mar 26, 2004 12:00 am
A day after some city planners suggested the Lebanon City Council's efforts to alter the city's paving ordinance were tailored to accommodate a heavy equipment auction yard off Highway 109, Lebanon lawmakers responded – strongly, at times – to the allegations.
"I am about sick and tired of the City of Lebanon Planning Commission saying that we are doing special favors. There are no special favors for anybody that's being dealt with," Ward 2 City Councilor Annette Stafford said. "My whole issue has been all along that if you've got (the Nashville Auto Auction) on one side, what is wrong with Ritchie Bros. being on the other side of the interstate?"
The city's current paving ordinance would require Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers to pave their entire facility including storage parking areas. Company officials have maintained, however, that paving the facility would ultimately prove pointless as the equipment would destroy the pavement.
Last month, the City Council voted to amend the paving ordinance, allowing storage parking areas to remain unpaved, but still requiring paving of visitor parking lots and trailways to the storage areas.
When the amended ordinance appeared before the Lebanon Planning Commission on Tuesday, it drew harsh criticism from some planners who maintain the changes were made specifically for the Canada-based auctioneering giant.
Councilors contacted by The Lebanon Democrat on Wednesday, however, said that is not the case.
"I'm disappointed that members of the planning commission … do not understand that the present paving ordinance needs to be reviewed and amended not withstanding the questions concerning Ritchie Bros.," Ward 3 Councilor William Farmer said.
A majority of city lawmakers shared Farmer's opinion. Ward 1 Councilor Carl Wood, who serves on the city's transportation committee, said Ritchie Bros.' attempt to locate in Lebanon only made problems with the ordinance more evident.
"Ritchie Bros. did bring to light some weaknesses in the existing paving ordinance, but whether we never hear Ritchie Bros. again, that paving ordinance needs revising badly, in my opinion," Wood said. "It's just not a functional paving ordinance. I confess that we didn't give it enough thought when we passed it."
Councilors maintain that laws such as the paving ordinance and the city's sign ordinance must constantly be updated to change with the times. For instance, the sign ordinance was recently altered to allow movie theater signs after plans for a 10-screen multiplex on Legends Drive were announced.
"Personally, I just see this as doing business, doing good, solid, sound city business," Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath said. "We found an ordinance, and it basically didn't meet the needs … I think when you see that you owe it to the community to fix it. That's what we're trying to do."
As the proposed auction yard would be located in the city's fourth ward, Ward 4 Councilor Joe Hayes has been the most outspoken in regards to changes to the paving ordinance. Hayes, who opposes the company's location in his ward, said Tuesday he felt he had been "run over" by his fellow lawmakers.
Councilors contacted Wednesday said they could understand Hayes' displeasure with the situation, but added they believe they are making the decision that is best for the entire city.
"I can understand (Hayes) being upset, but there are a lot of things in Ward 2 that we don't want in Ward 2 – did not want, have not wanted, but we've gotten it anyway," Stafford said. "He's not the only one that has gotten things in his area that he did not want."
"Apparently, Councilor Hayes is upset," Farmer added. "I hope he will review the total situation and see that it is appropriate for any city councilor to be concerned with what is going on in other wards."
Many councilors noted they were "disappointed" with the harsh allegations made during the course of Tuesday's planning commission meeting, and all said they plan to support amending the paving ordinance when it appears before them on second reading.
"We need to weigh the issues and listen to the arguments – pro and con – and decide what we think is the proper thing to do and quit throwing barbs at other people," Wood said, noting the recommendation to change the ordinance originated with the city transportation committee. " … I plan to support that change in the paving ordinance to the end because it needs changing regardless."