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Bank's demolition of historic home criticized

The demolition of a historic home in Lebanon belonging to noted Judge Nathan Green Sr. is drawing criticism as well as shock and disappointment. Notably, the block of West Main Street where the Green house stood is under consideration for a historic overlay, providing protection from demolition, if approved in the next couple months.

Historic Lebanon Executive Director Kim Parks said her nonprofit felt “totally blindsided by the demolition.” She called the demolition an “absolute setback to the community’s historic preservation efforts.

“This house was in good structural shape, it was certainly not too far gone to save,” she said.

Parks said the explanation for his demolition was insufficient and struck her as an “attempted public relations spin to justify demolishing a 170-year-old house. Peeling wallpaper and a broken pane of glass do not make a house structurally unsound.”

Wilson Bank and Trust CEO John McDearman III disagrees with Parks assessment of the structural integrity of the home.

In a phone call Tuesday, McDearman said that the home was in disrepair.

“Costs and conditions prevented us from restoring the structure.”

McDearman said the bank bought the property in anticipation of future growth.

“As we grow, we may have needs for expansion,” said McDearman.

McDearman said the bank will provide space on the property for an acknowledgement of the historical significance of it and Judge Nathan Green.

He said the bank has had its eyes on the property for years.

The timing of the purchase and demolition raises some concerns for Parks.

“The city was trying to take action,” she said Wednesday. “This property, 607 W. Main St. and its neighbor to the east, 601 W. Main St., were to be included in the Greenlawn Drive Historic District. This vote is scheduled for the October meeting of the Lebanon Historic Preservation Commission.”

Parks said she plans to push through with the vote and to include the property despite the structure now being gone.

Historic Preservation Commission Chair John Foutch was also critical of the bank’s actions.

He said in an email Tuesday that on Sept. 14 the property was identified by the commission as one worth including in the upcoming historic overlay for the last remaining block of historic residential properties on West Main Street.

According to Foutch, because the property was purchased before the historic district was created, the house wasn’t flagged to be reviewed by the commission prior to demolition.

Foutch said he has had a meeting with Lebanon Planning Director Paul Corder and City Attorney Andy Wright to discuss how to prevent something like this from happening again. Such measures will likely result from joint efforts by multiple Lebanon agencies dedicated to historic preservation.

Parks hopes that plans for a historic overlay “will help guide future infill on the site and protect 601 W. Main St.”

She sees the corridor from Castle Heights Avenue to the public square as an important gateway for the city.

“There are many historic structures which need protection and improper infill needs to be stopped,” she said.

The demolition occurred despite there being a historical marker on the property. Corder said that state and national historic registries actually do very little to preserve and protect buildings and properties.

According to Corder, these preservation efforts need to be grassroots, initiated at the local level to be effective.

City officials react

Lebanon City Councilor Joey Carmack said on Tuesday, “I certainly value historic homes in our community, which was shown when I voted in support of the city purchasing the Mitchell House.”

Carmack said he remains committed to the previously mentioned historic overlay district and “hopes the city votes to expand it.”

Councilor Camille Burdine, who lives in the Greenlawn district, said, “As the city councilor for the majority of the historic districts and living in one, I received many calls this weekend regarding the demolition of the property. It is very disappointing to see something like this occur in our city.”

Similar to the Historic Preservation Commission and Historic Lebanon representatives, Burdine was only made aware of the demolition when it began Saturday morning.

She said this has hardened her steadfast commitment to continue pushing for and supporting historic zoning in the City. There are currently four historic districts — Spring Street, Greenlawn Drive, the Square and an area by Cumberland University — which are considered protected.

Acknowledging the disappointment, Carmack offered a semblance of solace. “I’ve always known Wilson Bank and Trust to honor the past as they did recently when the operations center was built on the Castle Heights football field.”

Councilor Chris Crowell said he was sad to see it go. “I’ve always supported preserving our historic sites and homes,” he said. “Makes me glad that our city has moved to preserve other sites like the Castle Heights main building to keep as much of the city’s history as possible.”

Mayor Rick Bell, who has also served as the local resident historian, said he was “deeply upset at the demolition of this house, the historic home of the Greens and the Hookers, two prominent families in the legal history of Tennessee. It’s disappointing that the sellers and buyers did not realize the significance of this home to our city’s history and to citizens throughout the community.”

A Historic Preservation Commission meeting to discuss implementing safeguards for the future will be held at City Hall on Oct. 4.

Mt. Juliet gives OK for 253 more homes

The Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners approves the rezoning of the areas that will mean the addition of a combined 253 single-family houses to the city.

Commissioner voted 3-2 for rezoning property along Chandler Road and 5-0 for rezoning property on Curd Road.

The Chandler Road property will be rezoned to Mt. Juliet’s variable lot development (RS-20) whereas the Curd Road property will be rezoned to the city’s single-family development (RS-10) and Wilson County’s residential planned-unit development (RS-15 PUD).

The proposed developments include 35 lots on 19.18 acres for Chandler Road and 218 lots on 88.88 acres for Curd Road.

Chandler Road will have a density of 1.8 units per acre while Curd Road will have a density of 2.45 units per acre.

Vice Mayor Ray Justice noted there were no elevations in the Chandler Road subdivision’s 35 lots and asked about the design of the houses there.

Joe Haddix of Civil Site Design Group answered that the houses will be uniquely shaped.

“We’re able to set aside some open space and some perimeter landscape areas, set the subdivision’s lots back off the perimeter buffer, and save the natural vegetation as best as we can,” said Haddix.

District 4 Commissioner Jennifer Milele asked why CSDG planned on rezoning the subdivision as a variable lot development rather than as a planned unit development.

Haddix answered that it might have been an architectural decision.

Justice voiced his concern that rezoning the Curd Road promotion would affect the development of Bradshaw Farms.

Bradshaw Farms, a neighborhood of 561 homes, is located off Beckwith Road, which will provide eastside access to the new subdivision.

Public Works Director Andy Barlow confirmed that the subdivision’s park will be become a city park.

“Giving this park that recognition will make it more beneficial for the development,” said Trivett.

Planning panel rejects Carver Lane rezoning

A group of disgruntled residents showed up to City Hall for Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting to protest an amendment to Lebanon’s future land use plan they felt would drastically alter their neighborhood. Ultimately, the commission agreed and voted to deny recommendation on the project.

The objections concern a request made by Mark Vastola for a future land use plan amendment and subsequent rezoning approval for 19 acres located at 308, 310, 312 and 314 Carver Lane.

Vastola is proposing a townhome development that would require the low- and medium-density residential zones be redesignated to high-density residential zoning.

Former Mayor Bernie Ash, who lives in the neighborhood, said, “We know that changes to the future land use plan are typically the first step to rezoning.”

In addition to density, grievances included increases in traffic in an area many of the neighbors say already catches enough traffic as is.

“You’re taking your life into your own hands facing that traffic. Building more townhomes is only going to increase traffic. You have to live in the area to truly appreciate the traffic,” said Ash.

Another opponent of the measure, John Williams, said, “I thought this had been (settled) six months ago. I don’t understand why this is even a question.”

Williams went on to ask the commission, “Are we going to make this a La Vergne or a Brentwood?” His reference was about creating a space dominated by high-density multi-family housing, or low-density single-family homes.

After hearing the public’s concerns, when given time to speak, Planning Commission Vice Chairman Mack McCluskey asked openly, “What can we do to get these apartments and townhomes under control?”

“Carver Lane is part of a larger problem,” he said referring to the booming growth and new proposals for higher density development inundating the commission’s agendas month in and month out.

McCluskey said, “Our job is to look out for what’s best for Lebanon, but all we do is make recommendations to the city council, and quite frankly they do some odd things at times.”

Al Gore to kick off Peace Forum

To commemorate Cumberland alumnus Cordell Hull’s 150th birthday, the university will be hosting a monthlong forum dedicated to peace, and kicking things off with a special guest, former Vice President Al Gore.

Gore will be delivering remarks on the lawn in front of Memorial Hall Friday at 10 a.m. Gore, a lifelong Tennessean, with a pedigree for politics, descends from a family enamored with Cordell Hull. Gore and Hull also share a common bond, they are both Nobel Peace Prize winners, making Gore a perfect candidate for the forum’s theme.

In addition, Nashville’s best-known sculptor, Alan LeQuire, will unveil the 7-foot tall, bronze statue of the famous alumnus, which will reside permanently in front of Memorial Hall.

The opening event will feature roughly 500 chairs and go to a standing room audience once those are full. Masks will be required, despite being outside, as an added precaution requested by the Vice President’s team. Also, with most students off campus on Fridays, parking should be available. There are some lots reserved for RSVP guests, but Cumberland University Executive Director of Community Relations and External Affairs Rusty Richardson said there should be plenty of parking.

Of the event’s namesake, Richardson said that Hull was one of Tennessee’s brightest voices and most outspoken about pushing for peace around the world. As the eve of his 150th birthday, Oct. 2, dawned, the school decided to honor him with the first ever Peace Forum.

A recurring expression by Hull, “Peace must be our passion,” showed up for the first time on Nov. 25, 1933 while he was in Brazil for a conference. Hull served as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Secretary of State during World War II and in the years leading up to the conflict.

It was Hull’s work after the war, establishing the framework for the United Nations that ultimately helped him secure the Nobel Peace Prize.

Richardson said the entire month will feature activities celebrating peace. Several notable events will be held, including a discussion with Mayor Rick Bell on Oct. 7 in Vise Library at 12:30 p.m. Bell will take a biographical look at Cordell Hull in an event called, “A Person Can’t Ever Amount to Something Unless He Stands For Something: The Life and Legacy of Cordell Hull”.

The month will continue with National Book Award winner, Colum McCann, on campus for two events centered around his latest book “Apeirogon.” The book takes a poetic yet painful dive into a decades-long conflict in the Middle East, told through the eyes of two men on opposite sides of the conflict.

“Apeirogon” chronicles the real life story of two men, one Palestinan and one Israeli, who came together in grief to find brotherhood. The Peace Through Storytelling event will take place in Alumni Hall on Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. and for the first time ever in the United States, McCann will have the Israeli, Rami Elhanan, and the Palistinian, Bassam Aramin, involved in a virtual moderated discussion.

Richardson described this phenomenon as “radical empathy,” an empathetic understanding of others’ lives based on common threads in shared experiences. Both subjects in McCann’s story lost children to the conflict going on between Israel and Palestine. Through that shared grief, they realized they had more in common than in difference.

Just the day before, on Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. in Baird Chapel, students are invited to participate in the Campus Story Exchange where they will share their own personal stories as a way to practice empathy and understand that everyone has a story.

There are other events scheduled for the Peace Forum throughout the month. For a full list visit, https://www.cumberland.edu/events.