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Residents object to proposed annexation

Residents of a Leeville Pike neighborhood have been disrupted by construction, flooding and traffic but have maintained at least a strip of barrier from the commercial development on Highway 109.

Annexation of a small strip of land between Surrey Place and the new Publix could change all that.

The Lebanon Planning Commission reviewed the requested annexation during its regularly-scheduled meeting last Tuesday. At the meeting, Lebanon Planning Director Paul Corder indicated that the property would be zoned rural residential if the property was annexed.

“The applicant is requesting an RR zoning,” Corder said. “That is a rural residential area, which is three-acre lots. They may come back with a rezoning when they have a better plan.”

While the discussion squared in on annexation, Corder remarked that there is currently no development plan for the property.

“At this point, we don’t have a plan from the developers,” Corder said. “That’s why we are recommending the most restrictive zoning district. There won’t be a lot going on.”

Residents of nearby Surrey Place and Stonehenge Drive are concerned that if the property is annexed to the city, future development will cost them the buffer they presently enjoy from the commercial environment to the west.

Debbie Thomas has been living on Surrey Place for more than 40 years.

“The back of our lot is very low,” Thomas said. “It drains into a creek bed. Those trees are the only privacy that we have. When the leaves fall off, I now see Speedway and Publix.”

When Lebanon passed the Comprehensive Future Land Use Plan that indicated how city officials desired to see possible tracts annexed, the stretch of land under consideration was marked as medium-density residential, permitting seven units per acre on the site.

Maureen Vescera owns property by the proposed annexation. She addressed the planning commission during the meeting with pointed words toward the Lebanon City Council liaison, Chris Crowell, a voting member on the planning commission.

“Chris (Crowell), you have provided us with no buffer zones,” Vescera said. “We have a mountain with Meritage (Homes) behind us. Now the buffer zone we have at the other end is being taken too. I know you are not being challenged for your ward (this election), but we are asking that you do something to protect us.”

In response, Crowell indicated that he likes to vote on things once it’s clearer what kind of development can be expected. With the matter before the commission just being annexation and not addressing development, Crowell opted not to cast a vote.

“I like to know exactly what they (the developers) are going to do,” Crowell said. “The position I will take is that I am abstaining from this vote tonight to obtain more information.”

Another opponent to the proposal, Shiyar Kapan, voiced concern that the construction that the property owners were exploring sounded like “cookie-cutter” designs and would not mesh with the properties on Surrey Place and Stonehenge Drive.

“A lot of the residences to the (east) have been there a long time,” Kapan said. “I have seen some new apartments being built in Lebanon that are not of quality.”

Ultimately, the planning commission passed the annexation with a positive recommendation.

It will still have to pass approval with the Lebanon City Council, which meets on the first and third Tuesdays of every month at Lebanon City Hall at 6 p.m.

An untraditional Halloween on the "Square"

Lebanon’s Halloween on the Square event was missing something this year … the square.

However, all the fun was still there on Sunday afternoon as the event took place at the Mill at Lebanon, which is within walking distance of the square.

The event — which is organized by the Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce and the city of Lebanon — was moved due to rain and threats of inclement weather.

Among of the multiple churches and 38 businesses, there were many first-time vendors partaking in the event. With the late move and so many first-timers, many were uncertain as for what to expect.

Typically, vendors set up along the square and in parking lots with candy for trick-or-treaters, games, inflatables and other activities. However, after nearly a week of monitoring the weather forecast for Sunday, the Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce decided that relocation was a must, and, on Friday, decided to move the festivities indoors.

That switched things up for those providing the Halloween fun, for the Mill and the city’s eager trick-or-treaters.

Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Melanie Minter pointed out that the rain and relocation didn’t stop anyone from joining in on the festivities.

“Fortunately, we are growing as a community, and people came from all over,” Minter — who was grateful for all of the parties who were involved — said. “Between 3,000 and 4,000 people are expected, but we had over 4,000 this year.”

Krys Midgett — who is the founder of the Give a Little Christmas toy drive — added, “The crowd here was not anticipated, but I’m not mad about it. I’m sure we will still have some candy left over even with all of these people.”

Midgett dressed as her charity persona, Bubbles the Elf, and gave out candy. Her booth was a mix between Halloween and Christmas, with her “Nightmare Before Christmas” cardboard cutout and spooky-themed Christmas tree.

Midgett wasn’t only giving out candy at her booth. She was also giving information for her local toy drive and helping sign people up to win a guitar provided by Shiloh Music Center.

Every booth had something different. Julie Cook and Jeff Spain at the Profectus Jiu-Jitsu table hosted games and candy. It was their first year as well, and they enjoyed seeing the attendees.

“We have some games like pin the spider web, guess how many pieces of candy corn are in the poison flask, and our ghost toss,” Spain said. “Those who win the games are given a coupon for two free classes at our studio.”

The pair were dressed as Hocus Pocus characters, which resulted in a lot of attraction to their booth.

Two of the churches utilized the layout of the Mill to provide fun. Lebanon’s Launchpoint Church provided bounce houses, trick-or-treat tables and opportunities for prayer requests.

“Being indoors worked out fairly well because of the space we were given,” Jim Kubic with Launch Point Church, another first-time vendor, said. “We were going to have the inflatables in the parking lot, but it was nice to be inside.”

In the upstairs area of the Mill, the Child Evangelism Fellowship hosted face painting and games. Many attendees made note of how it was nice to be able to go from trick-or-treating on the bottom floor to specific activities up top.

Tuesday Willemain with the Loft Beauty Studio mentioned that it was good to see how the layout helped with crowd control. Another first-year vendor, Willemain was shocked with how many people arrived and how the event was pulled off so quickly.

“We had a wedding just last night and were going to start setting up for our Christmas event coming up this weekend today, but we just had to pull this off for the city,” Laura Comer, the sales and event manager at the Mill, said.

Comer enjoyed giving out candy and seeing everyone’s costumes.

“Should it ever rain over Halloween weekend again, we would love to host it here again,” Comer said.

The Mill also provided tables and seating for vendors.

“We are very grateful for the Mill to accommodate us,” Minter said. “We had as much space as we could inside, and we wanted to make sure we could pivot as quickly as possible. It was the right place and had lots of parking.”

The ongoing spirit of giving

CashExpress embarks on its 18th annual toy and coat drive today.

The business, along with others around the community, will accept donations of toys, coats, clothes, shoes and non-perishable food goods until Dec. 3.

Assistant manager Ashley Buck has participated in the toy and coat drive at the CashExpress Lebanon office for the past six years. She said that the drive benefits the Wilson County Christmas For All program, which CashExpress has partnered with for the last 14 years.

“It’s the spirit of giving ... that’s what Christmas is about,” Buck said. “To be able to give back to the community and to be able to help those in need, that is the whole spirit of the season.”

Buck said that CashExpress partners with several other businesses around the area that take boxes into their locations, including businesses associated with the Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce. The business serves as a drop center, collecting items inside a festively-wrapped box throughout the month.

In addition to the donation of items, Buck said that they accept monetary donations, which they will then use towards the effort. According to Buck, the donations received are a mix of everything they need. She pointed out that they receive monetary donations and new toys more than anything else.

“You walk in and this whole building is just stuffed full of stuff for these kids that need it, and it’s just amazing to see how the community comes together to make sure that everybody has Christmas,” Buck said.

Elementary schools are also a big part of the toy and coat drive. Buck said that the schools collect a large amount of canned goods, which helps people in need of food around the holiday season.

CashExpress also earns money for the cause through bake sales and raffles. The proceeds go towards buying coats and toys that children are in need of.

Rick Smith, the president of Wilson County Christmas For All, said that the program serves between 2,000 and 2,500 children in the eastern portion of Wilson County each year. They have a budget of around $100,000 per year for the toys they give out.

“It’s kind of an overwhelming thing when you first start looking at the number of toys and things we go through,” Smith said.

Wilson County Christmas For All’s program helps bring Christmas to children up to age 13. Smith said that there’s no income limit for families to register.

“You just take it on their word that they need the help, and we’re happy to help,” Smith said.

Taking a healthy stand

The American Heart Association (AHA) is partnering with Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital to hold a Heart Walk in Lebanon next year.

In an announcement made at Cumberland University on Friday, representatives from the AHA and Vanderbilt Wilson County held a panel discussion and talked about how individuals can maintain a healthy heart and how to encourage others to do the same.

During the past couple of years, the pandemic has exacerbated unhealthy habits and deprioritized healthy ones.

“I’ve seen a lot of patients who come in and say, hey, I was doing well with certain things, activity, lifestyle, whatever, but that’s changed,” said Dr. Christopher P. Menzel, the medical director of bariatric and metabolic surgery for Vanderbilt Wilson County. “So since COVID, going to gyms, gym memberships have gone down, and same with group activity.”

Menzel pointed out that talking with people about their weight can be a sensitive topic but that it can be approached in nuanced terms.

“(Obesity) is generally thought to be a negative topic,” Menzel said. “If you bring it up as a health tie, not an aesthetic one, they may be more likely to listen. I don’t care how big somebody is. If they’re comfortable about their weight, I’m happy about that, but I’m not happy about the medical problems that develop afterward. If you want you to be happy in your life moving forward for other people, you can’t do that if you have debilitating heart disease.”

One of the panelists, Lillien Beretta, is the founder and board president of the Joe Beretta Foundation, named for her late husband. The organization provides aid for advanced heart failure patients, their caregivers, and families by providing emergency housing, emotional support, and crisis stability.

Beretta shared her story and how that advanced heart failure stole her husband’s quality of life.

Despite how challenging tough health conversations can be, Beretta said that watching a loved one suffer is far worse.

Middle Tennessee American Heart Association Executive Director Annie Thornhill indicated that heart disease and stroke are ravaging families as the first and third leading causes of death in Tennessee.

According to Thornhill, the Heart Walk is central to their efforts to reduce those impacts.

“The beauty of the walk is that it meets people where they are,” Thornhill said.

The Heart Walk will be held at the Nashville Superspeedway, located at 4847-F McCrary Road in Lebanon, on April 15.

The Mt. Juliet Golden Bears receive the Mayor’s Cup from Mt. Juliet Mayor James Maness following their win over crosstown rival Green Hill.