Members of the community brought their questions and concerns about an ordinance that would eliminate a loophole in the zoning code during Thursday night’s Lebanon City Council work session.
The loophole would prevent developers from utilizing multi-use zoning to build apartment complexes. The elimination of the loophole would affect properties zoned as commercial neighborhoods (CN) and commercial service (CS).
City of Lebanon Planning Director Paul Corder laid out what specific changes would be made to CN and CS in the zoning code if the ordinance were to be passed at the city council meeting on Tuesday.
“We’ve added a maximum of eight units per building (to CN),” Corder said. “We’re also adding a section for commercial neighborhood commercial minimums, that reads, ‘The total area of commercial usage shall not be less than 20% of the first floor building area within each polygon of this zoning district.’ ”
A zoning district polygon is the shape that represents the zoning district on a map of the city.
Similarly to the changes to the CN verbage, CS would see a four units per building maximum, and a 30% minimum to first-floor commercial use.
Mike McGuffin with CHM Development is worried about the unintended consequences of the zoning code changes that would affect development surrounding the new Publix on Highway 109, which his company worked on.
“I think we’re kind of caught in the middle here,” McGuffin said. “We have made a big investment in getting that Publix. It took a big sales job to get them to go out to that area to do a second location in in Lebanon. They were telling us, ‘We don’t see any residential around here.’ ”
While Publix was eventually sold on the location, McGuffin said that CHM had intended to continue development on a residual 16 acres.
“We’re ready to go under contract with a multi-family developer,” McGuffin said. “This (change) is obviously going to throw a wrench into the situation. Even though you say that this doesn’t effect density, four units or eight units to a building is not economically feasible to go and build that same density on 16 acres.”
An option that Corder said could resolve this concern would be to do a special plan zoning.
When Lebanon Mayor Rick Bell came into office, the zoning codes were already a topic of discussion for city council.
“A couple of years ago when I first came in, one of the things that we talked about with the council was their concern that we had some zoning districts that were too wide-ranging, and that when they rezone something, they really weren’t sure what they were going to get,” Bell said. “As a result we were doing special plans a lot. I put together a zoning committee, which is made up of citizens, home builders and developers who look at the entire zoning code to tighten it up.”
The committee has been working towards that goal for almost two years. With approximately 400 pages in the Lebanon zoning code, Bell and the committee had to choose which sections to amend.
“The first one we did was the new sign ordinance we passed a couple weeks ago, and the second one was this CS and CN,” Bell said. “The reason we pulled it out was because one of the things that we discovered about CN and CS was that when it was first created by the city, the intentions were for it to be used for mixed use developments. A lot of the CN and CS has not been used for mixed use. It’s been used for one use. So, I just felt it was important to get this in front of the council and to really make these zonings really what they were intended to be, because I’ve heard a lot recently about unintended consequences.”
Ward 6 councilor Phil Moorehead agreed that the change to the zoning code could help amend these unintended consequences.
“When we had our council meeting two weeks ago, I think it was Camille who brought up unintended consequences, where we’re going to hurt people (with the changes to the zoning code),” Moorehead said. “I think, as the mayor just said, we’ve had unintended consequences since these two (zoning) classes came around. I don’t think anybody envisioned that these would all become apartment complexes with no commercial (development). So, I’m completely behind the changes.”
The ordinance is on the agenda for Tuesday night’s city council meeting, and the council is expected to hold a final vote regarding the changes to the zoning code.
Nearly 200 animals were seized from a property on Walnut Hill Road in Watertown on Tuesday.
The Wilson County Sheriff’s Office and animal control personnel worked alongside Animal Rescue Corps (ARC) as 59 dogs, more than 100 chickens, three cats, two turkeys, and two rabbits were discovered in a garage, shed and outdoor kennels.
The property owners did not surrender the animals after they were found living in awful conditions. ARC will be fighting for custody and has transported the dogs and cats to its rescue center in Gallatin. The chickens, turkeys and rabbits were taken to Redemption Road Rescue in Jackson.
“Animal control reached out to us,” ARC Public Information Officer Michael Cunningham said. “They had been to the property previously and found animals without access to food and water. They asked (the property owners) to step up their care for their animals, and they did not.
“We have worked with Wilson County in the past on large-scale animal issues, and so, they just reached out to us. We thought it was going to be 25 to 30 dachshunds and poodles, and it turned out to be 175 animals total.”
When ARC first entered the garage, rescuers found small travel crates and small wire cages.
“There were two dogs in each, alongside feces and urine,” Cunningham said. “Sometimes, the waste was about an inch deep inside of (the cages). The dogs were just soaked to the skin with urine.”
As ARC personnel and law enforcement made their way through the property, they found that there was no food or water available to any of the animals. That includes the animals that were confined in similar conditions in a shed at the back of the property.
“I think 10 dogs were in there,” Cunningham said. “These were large dogs, and they were in small, wire cages with two or three to a cage. This is the worst matting I’ve ever seen in 12 years of doing this. Some of these dogs have over an inch of feces on their entire body, literally pounds and pounds of feces. Some of the mats of feces in their fur are as big as a baseball. They can hardly move. Their skin is ripping from all the weight.”
According to Cunningham, to accumulate that degree of matting, it occurs over an extended period of time.
“There’s a black poodle here that is so matted (that) I broke down crying this morning,” Cunningham said. “This poor dog is suffering so badly. Every minute of every day, this dog is in pain and is suffering. There’s so much matting that every breath is painful.”
The animals within the shed were exposed to extremely high levels of ammonia.
“The dogs that are in our care are still off-gassing,” Cunningham said. “We’ve had to have all the windows and doors open here to keep the air fresh inside of our shelter, because they’re just giving off so much ammonia. Our groomers are starting to work, and we’re starting with the most serious cases first.”
Dogs from the property that are deemed to be one of the more serious cases will likely have to undergo medical grooming, where an animal has to be put under anesthesia in order to be groomed properly.
“It’s going to be too traumatic for them to go through awake,” Cunningham said. “I know we’re gonna see some really serious injuries. Once we get down underneath all that feces, we’re gonna probably see maggots and some serious skin infections.”
Groomers can typically avoid overwhelming an animal by spreading the necessary services out over multiple sessions. Extensive matting and other health concerns have made medical groomings essential for the dogs rescued from the property.
“It’s their whole body (that’s matted),” Cunningham said. “It’s their face. Their ears are severely infected. Their feet are raw, and so, there’s so many emergency medical issues that we can’t take our time to do it. It’s urgent that it be done now.”
In addition to the adult dachshunds and poodles that were found inside the garage and shed, there were seven puppies found in an outdoor pen in the back of the property.
“There was a tarp over the top of it, but there was no dog house or anything inside,” Cunningham said. “They were just running around. They were exposed to the elements and had no food, no water.”
Next to the puppies, there was a pen filled with adult chickens and turkeys. Those birds, alongside chicks found in the shed, were transported to Redemption Road Rescue, along with the rabbits.
A Lebanon man who survived a hit and run in Louisiana will return to Nashville to continue his care.
Car hauler Kevin Smith has been in the hospital since March 10, when he was struck by a car while unloading the last vehicle on his delivery roster. Since that time, he has undergone 18 surgeries and still has a long road to recovery ahead.
Smith will have a skin graph on both of his legs on Monday. After that, the hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, will keep him for observation for five to seven days before he can be discharged. Then, Smith will be in long-term, acute care to prepare for rehabilitation at Vanderbilt.
“It’s been so hard to see my husband, who was just working and got run over, have to suffer so much, not being able to move, seeing him cry and having his freedom taken away,” Tuesday Smith said.
While in Baton Rouge, Smith and his wife have been visited by the 12 first-responders who saved his life and have been adopted by two churches in the area.
“Although I’m happy to be getting the rest of his care in Tennessee, I’m sad to say bye to everyone who has been so good to us, “ Tuesday Smith said. “From our Uber drivers, to the hotel, to the staff at the hospital, I’ve gotten to know people here as we live here.”
Over the last five weeks, Tuesday Smith says that she has barely slept, and she stays close to her husband as he recovers.
“At night, we may watch a movie and pretend we are watching at home where it was normal and cozy,” Tuesday Smith said.
For now, the couple is taking things one day at a time.
“We say every day, ‘One day at a time,’ ” Tuesday Smith said. “Every day he’s getting better, one day at a time. We enjoy being together and stay thankful that we have more time together.”
She says that she knows that they’ll have support when they return to Nashville.
“We know staying as positive as we can will be our strength to work towards getting him back home with us again,” Tuesday Smith said. “I am not able to hug him as everything hurts him. I look forward to someday being able to hug him and sit beside him, not in a hospital bed.”
Penny Thompson has worked with the Lebanon Special School District (LSSD) for 30 years.
However, this year is one in which she might recall fondly.
Thompson recently selected as the 2022-2023 supervisor of the year by the Tennessee Department of Education.
“It’s a very high honor, and I’m very appreciative of it,” Thompson said. “I see myself as being part of a team here in our district. The central office staff works really hard. We all work really hard together. So, I see it as accepting the award for my whole district, because the teachers are the ones on the frontlines really making everything happen.”
Thompson currently works as the LSSD pre-K director and instructional coordinator.
“Here at the district level, I am able to support school administrators and school teachers,” Thompson said. “That’s my goal. It’s intrinsically rewarding to see the success that administrators have and that teachers have with student growth. When all those levels are growing and being supported, it’s very rewarding.”
Thompson began her career in education as a first-grade teacher in Texas.
“I really felt like it was a calling, a calling to work with students and to make a difference in the education of young children,” Thompson said.
She returned to Wilson County to teach second grade at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy. She then became a first-grade teacher at Lebanon’s Byars Dowdy Elementary in 1991, where she later became the assistant principal.
“I was born and raised in Wilson County, and I knew I would return,” Thompson said.
In 2004, Thompson became pre-K director and instructional coordinator at the LSSD central office.
“All three positions are very intrinsically rewarding,” Thompson said. “As a teacher, to be able to be with a group of children for an entire year and to see their growth at the end of the year, it’s extremely rewarding to know that you’ve had that position to be able to help them to grow. It’s the same thing with being a school-level administrator. It’s very rewarding to see teachers get the support they need for professional learning and for whatever else they may need support with to see them grow. At the district level, I’m able to support school administrators and teachers.”
LSSD Director of Schools Brian Hutto has seen Thompson’s work in action, both as a school administrator and in his role in the LSSD central office.
“I experienced first-hand her support of teachers, her support for families, and her work to make sure our younger students have exactly what they need to be successful,” Hutto said. “In transitioning to the central office, I’ve had more of an opportunity this year to see the planning and care she puts forth to make sure those three things are served. I’ve seen it in practice, and I’ve seen it in preparation.”
Hutto sees Thompson’s diligence, work ethic, professionalism and prioritizing of students as qualities that set her apart.
“It makes us very confident in what we provide to our students and makes us excited, because we know we’re heading in the right direction,” Hutto said. “It’s definitely an advantage for our students and our teachers to have that level of support as they work to be successful.”