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Patrol car possibly totalled

A Watertown police officer was involved in a single-car crash last Friday that potentially totaled the vehicle.

During his report on Tuesday evening, Watertown Police Chief Bill Laney informed the city council of the crash, which also prompted an update surrounding the department’s three new police vehicles.

Laney informed the city council that the officer was unharmed.

“He said that he was coming down Tennessee Boulevard, and he was coming around the curve, and there was a deer in the road,” Laney said. “So, he went to the left to (try and) miss it and the deer (came) across the road. When you come across the road there, it goes into the woods and up the hill. He got about halfway over (there) and stopped, and then turned around and cut back across the road. So, (the officer) turned back to the right and went off the road, hit a tree head-on. Fortunately, he wasn’t going fast, but when you hit something that doesn’t move, you don’t have to be going fast.”

The department is still waiting to hear back from its insurance agency to know whether or not the vehicle is totaled. If it is, the department intends to use parts from the damaged vehicle on other police vehicles.

“What we would do is take parts off of that (potentially totaled) one, and put it in (another car),” Watertown Police Assistant Chief Mike Henderlight said. “We just had two other vehicle repairs done on (one of the cruisers), one today and one the other day.”

The department would also have to strip the vehicle of police equipment if it’s deemed totaled.

It will be six to eight weeks before the new patrol cars previously approved by the Watertown City Council will be ready.

“We’ve got to get the lights, the siren boxes and stuff put in,” Laney said. “Then, we’ve got to get another group to come in and put in the video cameras in.”

Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings asked if department had to outfit all three of the new police cars at the same time.

“Between the accident and stuff, we’ve got the two white (patrol cars) up there waiting on stuff to come in,” Laney said. “The black (patrol car), the one that I’ve been driving, has already got the radio in it. It doesn’t have lights in it, so we can’t use it on the road. I use it for back-up. We can’t use it for any patrol purposes.”

Laney explained how the two new patrol units would be utilized in the department.

“What our plans for the regular marked (patrol) units are (is that) we’ll have a day-shift driver and a night-shift driver,” Laney said. “They’ll be driving the two marked units. There’ll be one car designated for day shift, (and) one for night shift, because you don’t want to run them 24-7. Each (car) will only have a 12-hour shift. The day-shift people will be responsible for the day-shift car. The night-shift people will be responsible for the night-shift car.”

The department’s goal is to try and get the two cars it intends to have on regular patrol ready as soon as possible.

Breathing life back in

Cars have filled the parking lot in front of the newly-opened Marshalls in Lebanon.

Marshalls became the second store to open the redeveloped Western Plaza on Thursday, opening its doors soon after its neighbor, Five Below. It has created approximately 60 new full and part-time jobs in Lebanon.

“We’re really excited about it,” Lebanon Mayor Rick Bell said. “This is a project that Sarah Haston and I have been working on for a while. Kmart went out of business several years ago. With that being empty space, it was really doing nothing for anyone — for shoppers, for the city — and it was sort of a blight. Having these stores there, it makes that area productive again.”

Even with only two stores open, there’s already a stark difference in the way that the Western Plaza looks.

“When you drive, by you no longer see an old, vacant Kmart with a dilapidated parking lot,” Haston said. “Now, you see a very nice shopping center with stores that we can’t wait to go shop in.”

The city has worked with the property owners for a long time to create a tenant line-up.

“These are good stores, and we’re glad to have them,” Bell said. “As far as stores like T.J. Maxx or HomeGoods, we want those stores too, and we’re always working to get more stores like that. That’s just part of the process.”

The redevelopment of the Western Shopping Plaza is expected to increase Lebanon’s sales-tax revenue.

“With the sales-tax revenue that will come in, we’ll definitely see an impact,” Haston said. “We’re anticipating a pretty good increase with those stores as each one opens.”

However, the economic benefit to Lebanon is believed that it will be beyond just sales tax.

“The more job opportunities that you have in the community, the more money you’re putting into the economy,” Haston said. “When that large of a space has had zero employment for years, putting employees back in makes a big difference ... more paychecks, more money each month going into our economy. So, it’s not just what people are spending at those stores, but the jobs are important as well.”

According to Bell, the public reception of Marshall’s has been good thus far.

“Everyone has been excited about it,” Bell said. “People have been asking me about it all the time, asking when the stores are going to open, not just Marshall’s but the other ones as well. We had the ribbon cutting, and there was already a line of people waiting to shop. This is something that everywhere I go, people talk about how great it is that these stores are coming in. This is something that people have been wanting for a long time.”

Ulta, Ross and Buff City Soap are anticipated to open in the Western Plaza soon.

Restaurant access could aid Mt. Juliet congestion

The Mt. Juliet Planning Commission approved on an amendment to allow take-out restaurants in the city’s commercial neighborhood service (CNS) districts during Thursday evening’s meeting.

They forwarded a positive recommendation on the zoning ordinance amendment to the Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners.

The amendment also prohibits drive-thru windows and speakers from take-out restaurants within the CNS districts but also allows these restaurants to use walk-up windows, as long as they are located on the right-of-way-facing side.

City officials said that removing the drive-thru windows and speakers eliminates both vehicle traffic and noise, especially when vehicles are next to residential developments, and it also lessens noise pollution from the speakers associated with drive-thru windows.

CNS districts usually provide retail and personal service operations in close proximity to residential developments.

Mt. Juliet Planning Director Jennifer Hamblen said that Mt. Juliet has a few CNS districts in areas such as Golden Bear Gateway. She indicated that they wanted to use the amendment as an opportunity to incorporate CNS districts along the Golden Bear corridor.

“These districts have really created a downtown synergy and a community/gathering spot for us, and we certainly enjoy having one within walking distance from Mt. Juliet City Hall,” said Hamblen.

Hamblen also said that she envisions the same benefits for people who live near CNS districts.

Mt. Juliet Public Works Director Andy Barlow said that when cities like Mt. Juliet have CNS districts, it is one of the ways that could help Mt. Juliet solve some of its congestion problems.

“When you have these districts like we see with Circle B (Market) between Old Lebanon Dirt Road and Cobblestone Landing, you don’t have to get everybody to go to North Mt. Juliet Road to get some groceries and stuff,” said Barlow.

Barlow said that if they develop CNS districts the right way, then these districts will be fantastic amenities for people who live near them.

The planning commission approved a measure to annex a parcel of land for New Tribe Church. The commission forwarded a positive recommendation to the Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners for that annexation on Clemmons Road.

New Tribe Church plans to build a new location south of the new Mt. Juliet Public Works Department facility on 12 acres.

The church is currently located on North Mt. Juliet Road and holds church services on Sundays at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.

New Tribe Church was formed in 2016 and is affiliated with a network of churches through Linked International Network of Churches (LINC) and is part of the Association of Related Churches (ARC).

The church’s future property is located within Mt. Juliet’s urban growth boundary and is also part of a doughnut hole left in the Mt. Juliet city limits on the east side of Clemmons Road.

New Tribe Church plans to add a 50-foot wide access easement across the northern part of the church.

The church’s new property will also be rezoned to Mt. Juliet’s RS-40 zoning, and it will also be part of district 3 after annexation.

Council seeks transparency from developers

When a member of the community brought concerns forward about a developer during the public comment period of the Lebanon City Council meeting on Tuesday night, ward 4 councilor Chris Crowell took the opportunity to explain why he and the city council typically favor special plans when it comes to zoning.

“A SP is a specific plan, and it requires developers to go to a little bit more work, a little bit more trouble, and they have to disclose what they’re doing on a piece of property,” Crowell said. “Sometimes, that’s not convenient, and it costs them more money and more time. But it’s transparent to the community, who helped pay for infrastructure (and) who has helped support the opportunity for them to be able to try to fund a project in our community.”

The resident had alluded to a project that had not had a special plan and was originally a project that was intended to be what Crowell called a “quality development.”

“We had a developer who proposed a project (that was for people age) 55 and up,” Crowell said. “It was going to be a quality development. They decided to flip it to a national rental community. They said that the reason was because of economics. It was during the pandemic, and things changed on them suddenly, and so they cashed in on it.”

However, Crowell said that there are positive economic signs in Lebanon.

“The last time I checked, the unemployment rate was very low, and inflation is coming down,” Crowell said. “(There’s) a lot of positive signs economically, and I think most people would say that our city is doing quite well. But this developer chose to not go the route of an SP and disclose what they were going to do and cashed in yet again on a rental community.”

According to Crowell, this isn’t the first time that something like this has happened.

“I don’t think that’s what our community really wants, and I’m disappointed that this has happened again,” Crowell said. “I’m going to just say here tonight that if anybody wants to do something in ward 4, be prepared for an SP. If you’re going to propose something in the city limits, I would strongly advise if you want my vote ... and you may not ... you may not care ... you may have five others and congratulations ... but if you want my vote, then, you’re going to have to be transparent with the community that’s provided you the opportunity to build here.”

Mt. Juliet freshman right-fielder Tucker Griffith makes a diving catch during the second inning.