With 2020 in the rearview mirror, the Lebanon Regional Planning Commission is taking a deep dive into the city’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan in hopes of sending it to the city council by March.
The document has been in the works since late 2017 and would overhaul the city’s future land use map and zoning codes to guide development. A subcommittee meant to hone in on its goals and objectives began meeting weekly this month.
“One thing that we all agreed on is, we do not want this committee to be a ‘let’s sit around and talk about stuff for an hour’ meeting,” Lebanon Mayor Rick Bell said. “We want this to be an action committee that actually does stuff and prepares stuff to go to planning commission for their approval … so we want to take some real steps here towards the future and not just sit around and talk about it.”
Subcommittee members aim to identify specific short-term, midrange and long-term goals so the plan has concrete steps. Those will likely focus on three key areas: downtown Lebanon, the West Main Street corridor and TN 109.
“Getting housing around the square, that area needs some help,” Lebanon Planning Director Paul Corder said. “We talked about how once you come south from Maple Hill you start to get into congestion, so what can you do about that? Once you get past Maple Hill there’s just one way into town from Lebanon Road, there’s no other way around. So there are issues out there, those are just some of the ones that come to mind. Making Sparta Pike look better … some people only see that part of Lebanon, so we need to make that look better.”
The city sees narrowing down broad zoning as a potential solution, and one the comprehensive plan will focus on. Because different parts of the city have developed in different ways, that would allow officials to address each of them specifically.
“One of the things I’ve heard a lot for months now is that we’ve got too many gas stations,” Bell said as an example. “Out where we live, there are no gas stations.”
Planning commissioner and subcommittee member Camille Burdine also pointed to the number of car lots between Castle Heights Avenue to Kroger.
“We’ve had RVs on the square,” she said. “Is there some way there that we can thin that out a little bit or move them to a different place faster? Are they grandfathered in, are they meeting the codes that were imposed years ago on them or are they not?”
Corder said the proposed future land use plan would separate out a category for interstate car sales and make it more difficult to establish car lots around town. As the committee continues to analyze the land map, they may add in similar proposals.
“The city of Lebanon’s a big area,” planning commission chairperson and subcommitee member David Taylor said. “What we ought to do is figure out how to put sections of the city and we take a section as a group and say, ‘OK, this is the area, this is how we want it done.’ Get that done, get that approved by everyone in here and take another section.”
Alongside the comprehensive plan, the city is looking to increase its architectural design standards to boost visual appeal — particularly in its entry corridors.
“I know that’s something that’s been talked about a lot in the past, but this is something I really want to step into and that I really want to address,” Bell said. “We believe that the architectural design standards is really something that’s outside the comprehensive plan, that’s something we can do separate from this and something we can get on quickly.”
Corder and the rest of the city’s planning department are currently working on updated design standards to present to the planning commission within the next few months. Townhomes and multifamily homes are among the developments being targeted.
The Comprehensive Plan Subcommittee’s next meeting is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Jan. 19 at Lebanon City Hall. Members are expected to discuss problems and solutions specific to the West Main Street corridor.