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Upping the standards

There were several topics of discussion during Thursday night’s Lebanon City Council work session, including a building standard ordinance and the agricultural learning center that will soon be built at the Wilson County Fairgrounds.

The city council reviewed two versions of an ordinance that would add design standards for developers on single-family and two-family residential lots.

Both versions of the ordinance include a section that deals with parking and garages. Both versions require that each unit provides at least two parking spaces.

“We wanted to give some options, to give some solutions to a one-size-fits-all (driveway),” Corder said.

The version of the ordinance that the planning commission recommended gives the following options:

• Maintain a minimum driveway setback of at least 10 feet from a side property line.

• Provide a driveway that is least 35 feet long, from the back of the sidewalk.

• Place the garage entrance on the side or rear of the building.

• Provide at least two dedicated on-street parking spaces

• Provide at least two parking spaces to the rear of the building.

“In the alternative recommendation, we removed the language about on-street parking,” Corder said.

The alternative version of the ordinance gives the following options:

• Provide a driveway that is at least 35 feet long from the back of the sidewalk (or property line if no sidewalk is present or proposed), and at least 10 feet wide.

• Place the garage entrance on the side or rear of the building (corner in double-loaded lots, excluding alley-loaded, shall also meet option one).

• Provide at least two parking spaces to the rear of the building.

• Provide at least two dedicated offsite parking spaces within 300 feet of the subject property measured by the shortest distance of sidewalk or paved trail.

The alternative version of the ordinance would also require each unit to provide room for at least two additional parking spaces. It gave the following options for the criteria to be met:

• Designate a space where two additional parking spaces to the side or rear of the building can be added on-site.

• Provide at least two dedicated off-site parking spaces with 300 feet of the subject property measured by the length of shorter sidewalk or paved trail.

Agricultural learning center

The support for the agricultural learning center is widespread.

In addition to donations from the community and businesses, the state of Tennessee has donated $1.05 million to the project, and the county has donated $2 million to help see the center be built at the Wilson County Fairgrounds.

The design for the 42,000-square-foot building includes two stories, a solar-paneled roof, a water collection system, silo, arena and tie space.

“The tie space in the back which was designed and built into whether you use a tie space in our area and also the outside,” Edwards Feeds owner Tim Edwards said. “The main thing about the building is that we were trying to use it year-round, not just for four months out of the year.”

Inside, there is a vet and milking area. The indoor arena is 60 feet wide and 117 feet long.

“One thing I want to stress on this is this building is being built for education,” Edwards said. “It has to be a learning center. The hope from the very beginning was for it to be a building of education. That’s what this is all about.”

Watching the seeds grow

Not long after Celebration Lutheran Church founding pastor Howard Mettee arrived in Mt. Juliet in 1980, he began meeting with other pastors in the community.

The monthly meeting would eventually result in the founding of the Mt. Juliet Help Center, which is celebrating 40 years of serving the community today.

“We’d get together and have a meal and talk about various concerns we had,” Mettee said. “It was a mixed group of Methodist, Catholic, myself and Presbyterian (pastors). We talked about various concerns, one of which was people coming and asking for help. It felt like, number one, we were never adequately prepared (for people), and number two, there were some folks that were going from one church to another church and another and that did not seem like it was helping.”

These conversations led to the idea that Celebration Lutheran Church, Cloyd’s Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the Cross, Faith Presbyterian Church, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, St. Stephen’s Catholic Community Church, and Suggs Creek Cumberland Presbyterian Church would band together and start a food pantry.

“In 1982, (the pastors) realized that people were coming to each church asking for help,” Mt. Juliet Help Center Director Carolyn Smith said. “They decided that it would better if the churches contributed to one central place where people could go to get food help.”

The next step in the process was getting the money to start the food pantry.

“What we needed to do was get some seed money,” Mettee said. “In November of 1982, we held a Thanksgiving worship and told the folks that came that we would take the seed of the offering and use that as the seed money for a food pantry. We were astounded by the size of the offering.”

The sum of the offering was approximately $2,000.

“The help center wasn’t opened until 1983, but that’s when the seed was planted, in 1982,” Smith said.

Once the group of pastors had the funds, they knew they had to put it to use.

“We were able to find a space where Moss’ Flowers is now,” Mettee said. “There was a little storefront right there that was vacant, and we managed to cut a deal to use that space. We just started asking churches to stock the food pantry.”

When the center first opened, it provided help with food and utilities to the community.

“Back then, they were renting spacing, and they had to move several times,” Smith said. “In 2006, they had to close for a little while. Then, in 2007, Celebration Lutheran Church let (the help center) lease land beside their building. Another church donated a double-wide trailer.”

The center’s facilities remained the same until 2014.

“In 2014, we were able to buy the land from Celebration Lutheran and build a permanent building,” Smith said.

The center’s facilities aren’t the only thing that’s grown since 1983.

“As the city has grown, the amount of people we’ve served has grown,” Mt. Juliet Help Center Assistant Director Kelly McCurry said. “The amount of food we give has also grown.”

Mettee said that because Wilson County isn’t typically seen as a low-income area, the amount of people that the center has been able to help was surprising.

“It astounds me, the number of people that we’ve helped,” Mettee said. “I can’t really put into words what that means to me.”

Both Smith and McCurry began their time with the Mt. Juliet Help Center as volunteers before they were hired.

“The volunteers build food orders for the clients,” Smith said. “We’re a client-choice food pantry, which means that every family gets something different. They fill out a list to tell us what they want and need. Volunteers fill those food orders, take in donations, and shelve the donations. They’re a vital part of keeping the help center running.”

Since Smith and McCurry started, additional programs have been added to help the community.

“We started a summer food program for the kids that aren’t (in a) backpack program,” McCurry said. “That’s twice a week, and it’s a box full of four days worth of breakfast, lunch and snack-food items that they can get. We started that (five years ago), and we’ve seen an exponential increase in (participation in) that (program) ever since.”

When the center’s bylaws were drafted in 1983, no one could imagine the impact that the Community Help Center of West Wilson County (now known as the Mt. Juliet Help Center) would have on the city.

“I can hardly grasp what it has become,” Mettee said. “It’s once of those things where when you’re part of something at the beginning, you hope that it will succeed. You hope that what you’re doing will have a lasting impact. When I see where we are today, I’m just absolutely in awe of what the community has done, the churches have done, individuals have done and the leadership (of the center) has done.”

Developers unveil a proposed new downtown for Mt. Juliet

Local developers unveiled a new downtown for Mt. Juliet to the Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners before its regular meeting on Monday evening.

Imagine1Company presented visual concepts of a $150-million development, which would feature a town center, a new city hall, a fire station, and a mixed-use space with more than hundreds of units of multi-family housing.

Restaurants, retail outlets, offices, and a city-owned parking garage will also be included into the development.

Mt. Juliet’s new town center would be built on North Mt. Juliet Road, East Hill Street, and Caldwell Street.

Imagine1Company and Lineberry Developments plan on collaborating for this project.

Lineberry owns five of the eight acres where the development would be built. Mt. Juliet owns the other three, housing the current city hall and several other buildings

During Monday’s workshop, the developers went over two options of Mt. Juliet’s new town center to the city commission.

Imagine1Company partner Matt Gardner acknowledged concerns over the use of the city-owned parking garage and the financial arrangements between the city and other private entities. He said the developers decided to separate the new city hall and a city-owned parking garage from the other private properties so that the financial arrangements could be simplified for the project. They also incorporated more parking spaces for the development, including a 60-car surface lot and parallel parking spaces near the new city hall.

Gardner said that the developers wanted to take the elevation at East Hill Street and carry it all the way across the top of the 60-car surface lot for the town center’s first concept.

“We think we can do this cost-effectively, and it’ll really make the whole plaza pop and keep everything on a pedestrian-oriented level,” said Gardner.

He also said that the city hall will be located north of North Mt. Juliet Road for the plan’s second concept, compared to it being located on East Caldwell Street on the plan’s first concept.

“The first thing you see as you’re coming up north off the interstate would be city hall,” said Gardner.

Mt. Juliet’s new city hall and offices would be built at four stories, and the city hall would be measured at 14,000 square feet.

Costs for a new city hall estimate at more than $15 million.

Lineberry and Imagine1 plan on having a local grocery store tenant to be one of the retail outlets for the new town center.

The developers are also considering an Italian steakhouse to be one of the restaurants for the project.

Mt. Juliet City Manager Kenny Martin said it would take 20-30 years for everything in the town center to be maxed out.

Gardner said the developers will lay out the planned-unit development for the project in six months.

“One of the other big things we will do during this process is keep the floor plates as flexible as possible,” said Gardner.

Gardner indicated that would help city commissioners work on space adjustments for 5-10 years.

Looking forward

Brian Hutto

All school districts in Tennessee are required to adopt a five-year strategic plan.

As the term for Lebanon Special School District’s current plan comes to an end this year, work has begun on a new plan for 2023-2028.

The initial draft of the new strategic plan was given to the LSSD school board at its May meeting on Monday.

“We’ve been talking about these points throughout the course of the year,” LSSD Director of Schools Brian Hutto said. “I’ve taken (the board’s) feedback and our teachers’ (feedback) and our community’s feedback. So, (there’s been) a lot of feedback throughout the year.”

The process of drafting the new strategic plan began in the fall of 2022 when Hutto and other leaders in the district began to meet with schools.

“We started with an evaluation of our current strategic plan and looked at where we were in relation to our goals,” Hutto said. “Then, we started with school meetings. I sat down with a group from all subject areas, the principal and assistant principal. We had three essential questions that we asked. What has Lebanon Special done well? Where can we grow? What are things you need to be more successful?”

When receiving feedback from teachers and school administrators about the areas in which LSSD can progress, one of the areas identified was handling growth. Some of the things that district employees identified as far as what LSSD is doing right included its family environment, community involvement and the size of the district.

“A revolving theme was that they’re very thankful for the size of the district,” Hutto said. “It’s smaller, and being able to know who their teammates are, being able to reach out to other schools and collaborate, that (was mentioned) in each meeting.”

The feedback from those meetings with schools was taken and used to create four central goals for the upcoming strategic plan.

The four goals identified in the rough draft of the district’s strategic plan were to cultivate student achievement and growth, support student safety and well-being, recruit, retain and cultivate high-quality employees, and finally to ensure resource responsibility.

The goal of cultivating student achievement and growth is all about effective instruction and utilizing tools to help students be the best they can be.

“The primary objective is to empower students by embracing high standards,” Hutto said. “We want to make sure that we’re effectively using our resources (like textbooks). We want to make sure we have engaging lessons that are well planned, and we want to make sure that we’re taking data from those lessons so that we can adjust instruction.”

To support student safety and well-being, the district will focus on mental health and behavior.

“The goal is to implement programs for student mental, emotional and behavioral health,” Hutto said. “The other piece (of this goal) would be physical safety and making sure safety plans are understood and implemented.”

To retain and cultivate high-quality employees, the district has a goal to promote a community of continual learners and a community of excellence through collaboration.

“We we always want to make sure that we have the absolute best teachers,” Hutto said. “Our foundational elements (as a district) are outstanding learning for all students, outstanding teaching in every classroom, and an outstanding principal as an instructional leader. We want to make sure we get the best teachers, and we want to make sure we keep the best teachers.”

The final goal of ensuring resource responsibility relates to the district’s finances.

“We want to make sure our buildings are up to date, that they’re well kept, that they’re clean,” Hutto said. “We want to may sure they’re a place that students want to attend and an environment that promotes learning. Financially, when we spend taxpayer dollars, we want to make sure that it does its intended purpose, which is to support student learning.”

Throughout May, the LSSD school board will review the rough draft of the strategic plan and its goals. In June, the board will vote on the strategic plan after feedback is given.