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Lebanon approves redistricting process

The redistricting process in Lebanon prepares to enter its final stages as the city voted to approve the new district map.

This practice comes on the heels of the recent US population census, which is used on the local level to determine representative voter blocks. As a result of the growth, the districts in Lebanon will now be more populous, so each council member will represent more residents.

Based on the new census data, Lebanon is currently home to more than 39,000 residents. An equal distribution of those residents into six voting districts would result in districts comprising 6,405 residents.

Distributing those totals across six districts does not result in exactly equal blocks, so some districts will have slightly more residents than others. For example, Ward 1, represented by councilor Joey Carmack, will have 6,642 residents, making it the most populated district in the city.

By contrast, Ward 3, represented by councilor Camille Burdine will have 6,139 residents, making it the least populous district.

These population totals do not necessarily reflect growth trends around the city but rather an attempt to distribute the residents within a relatively small window of deviation. In this case, the 503-person difference between the districts represents less than a 10% deviation. Such a figure is comparable to the target population distribution of the county.

City council members must maintain a residence in the district where they are running. They are elected in an at-large voting process.

Lebanon prepared a redistricting plan, which provides for a city legislative body composed of six members and creates six districts depicted on the official redistricting map.

Due to the boom in growth experienced in the city since 2010, the city council had raised the possibility of expanding the body to include additional seats. Ultimately, the map that the city council approved on Tuesday maintains the same number of representatives that Lebanon has had for multiple cycles.

Mt. Juliet rezones Old Friends dog cottages

The Mt. Juliet Planning Commission recommended a rezoning of the dog cottages at Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary on Thursday.

The commission forwarded a recommendation on rezoning the cottages to RS-40 to the Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners.

Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary plans to have its 10 perpetual dog-care cottages built west of its new facility on Nonaville Road. The cottages — contained within private fencing — will be constructed on the two rezoned parcels at 3.8 acres and are measured at 11,953 square feet.

The dog-care cottages’ design includes facades that consists of fiber cement siding and brick.

Para Design LLC, a local civil engineer group and the developer for Old Friends’ dog-care cottages, requested to prohibit animal care and veterinary office and services on any lot adjacent to any residentially-zoned property and to apply the city’s commercial design standards to the cottages for that rezoning.

Zina Goodwin, co-founder of Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary, said that they are providing a home-like environment for their dogs with the new cottages. She added the cottages would allow people to provide for their dogs either by request or donations.

“Each cottage will have four or five dogs in it,” said Goodwin. “Each individual unit will have its own yard and even access to our larger yard.”

She also said that caretakers will come to each cottage, as well as volunteers to spend time with the dogs there.

“We will try to put the dogs with the other dogs that came either from the same home or have similar dispositions, so they could all enjoy living in a cozy atmosphere together,” said Goodwin.

Goodwin also envisioned Old Friends as a shopping community.

She said that they could set up their business like an antique mall by having people rent separate spaces and put a shopping area there.

Old Friends will follow Mt. Juliet’s supplemental requirements for animal care into the development. Those requirements include restricting the use of exercise yards from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and having the design of animal-care facilities provide for the off-street pickup and drop-off of animals.

Goodwin provided assurance that they will keep their cottages as clean as their existing facility and try to be good neighbors to everybody.

Planning commission member Scott Hefner praised Old Friends’ new dog-care cottages.

“The cottages are so unique (that) they would be a welcome addition to our community,” said Hefner.

In other business, the planning commission made a negative recommendation to rezone Providence Commons Townhomes, a multi-family development, located on South Mt. Juliet Road.

The measure would have rezoned Providence Commons to an RM-16 planned-unit development.

There were 108 townhomes that were planned to be built on seven acres at a density of 15.7 units per acre for the project. Amenities would have included a pavilion, a playground, a dog park and an open play area.

City officials, including District 4 Commissioner Jennifer Milele, opposed Providence Commons Townhomes for its number of townhomes being too high to match its density.

Mt. Juliet addresses its growth

The Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners discussed their progress on addressing the city’s growth during a work session on Wednesday.

Mt. Juliet has been planning on developing more projects with more resources. The city’s plans include a shift from grant-funded projects to city-funded projects, an objective shift from efficiency to speed, and increasing its staff to meet demands.

Projects such as the rewidening of Mt. Juliet Road between 2004 and 2012 and the rewidening of Golden Bear Gateway in 2017 were largely dependent on grant-funding availability.

Public works director Andy Barlow said that the city has a history on doing those types of projects with efficiency.

The city has incorporated a lot of transportation professionals into its staff to help the city develop transportation projects for more than 14 years.

“We corresponded a lot with our budget surpluses to help us move into a direction where we have the resources to develop our transportation projects,” said Barlow. “We give a lot of credit to the board of commissioners for helping us address our transportation needs.”

Mt. Juliet now has more than 20 transportation projects and seven sewer capital projects in its current budget.

The city also increasingly focused its work on various projects since 2016.

Barlow said that the city has also worked on installing more traffic signals in recent years. However, the city of Mt. Juliet did not have a full-time technician and has relied on contractors for those installations.

The city now has two full-time technicians to install new traffic signals and is relying on its in-house staff to handle most traffic-related emergencies.

The city has also combined its supervision for street maintenance and sewer maintenance.

“It worked well when we were a city of over 20,000 people, but it has not worked well once our population continued to increase and our infrastructure continued to grow,” said Barlow.

Barlow said that the city was reactive to those concerns over street and sewer maintenance by providing more equipment to address both types of maintenances.

He added that Mt. Juliet has expanded its sewage equipment for capabilities with vacuum trucks and more, and it has started doing in-house inspection for sewer maintenance. Barlow also said that the city has moved to proactive maintenance for its streets by providing full-time street sweeping.

The city of Mt. Juliet has also made several initiatives to address its increasing number and urgency of city projects, including an ADA Transition Plan in 2019, a Comprehensive Transportation Plan in 2020, and a capital projects dashboard this year.

Mt. Juliet’s Sewer Master Plan and Pocket, which was also initiated by the city last year, identifies major projects such as the Stoner Creek Interceptor and the Cedar Creek Interceptor.

Barlow said that they are in a transition into a data-driven, proactive direction for city projects in different ways, particularly with stormwater utility and the capital improvement plan.

Barlow detailed that the capital improvement plan helps to identify funding needs and sources, as well as to set and revise project priorities.