Members of the Lebanon City Council are pushing for more public feedback on the 2040 Comprehensive Plan as the city’s planning commission prepares to review the document.
Both groups got their first detailed look at the proposed roadmap for Lebanon’s growth during a joint work session held Thursday and will continue recommending changes throughout the process.
“We expect to get some more comments,” Lebanon Planning Director Paul Corder said. “And really want this section to be something that the planning commission and city council really start to own and give it the direction that it needs to go.”
The plan is centered around an overhaul to the city’s Future Land Use Plan that would hone in on specific purposes for current residential mixed use (RMU) zoning.
With that, the city hopes to promote transportation, economic development, entertainment and more — particularly in four key districts. Residents had the opportunity to review the plan and give feedback during a virtual open house in August, but “I’d encourage to do a couple of just open meetings and have this displayed where the public can come in,” Ward 6 Councilor Jeni Lind Brinkman said. “The whole virtual open house, which I loved the idea of, I think it was a challenge for a lot of people.”
Corder said the virtual open house offered pros and cons when it came to engaging the public with the plan.
“We got maybe 200 to 300 people, maybe 400 people,” he said. “Normal open houses get, at the best, maybe 80 people … but one thing we did notice, we only got six people to respond to any of the surveys.”
Ward 4 Councilor Chris Crowell said even people who already viewed the virtual open house could benefit from a public meeting.
“I think in this particular case, both approaches are sort of the ideal,” he said. “Because you’re going to have some people that were exposed to it before, maybe they had a chance to think about it and maybe they come to the meeting and tell us a little more about what they think.”
The Lebanon Regional Planning Commission is scheduled to meet on Sept. 22 and will work on the document, but the city may not make a final decision until after the Nov. 3 mayoral election.
“What I would like to see done is just get on the ball and get her adopted, and pay the people that did all this work,” Comprehensive Plan Committee Chair T.A. Bryan said. “Go to the future. Nothing is impossible.”
The council also held a discussion on the 2020 census, which finishes counting on Sept. 30 and impacts federal program funding and representation in Congress.
“We use it for redistricting, so once we get the results back from the census all of the city council wards will be redistricted and the lines will be drawn again,” Corder said. “There’s some tax revenue that comes to us per person, and the state will do that based on the population.”
Lebanon’s population was recorded at 26,190 after the 2010 census and 33,732 during a 2016 special census.
This year’s census results are expected to paint a clearer picture of the city’s population growth over the past five years, which has driven a number of government decisions and expenses.
“We’re growing at a faster rate than Murfreesboro, a faster rate than Franklin,” Corder said, citing projections from the U.S. Census Bureau. “We’re just behind Mt. Juliet, Spring Hill and Gallatin.”
Crowell said a high census response rate is important when it comes to meeting the city’s long-term goals, many of which are outlined in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan based on public surveys.
“We hear about what we want as a community,” he said. “We want more infrastructure, we want more parks, more services, and this is how we pay for it.”
The Lebanon City Council’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the city’s administration building at 200 N. Castle Heights Ave., immediately following a public hearing at 5:55 p.m.