Concerns from residents over a proposed 69.6-acre rezoning on Leeville Road led the Lebanon Regional Planning Commission to defer action until December, pending a meeting between neighbors and Ragan-Smith Associates about the project.
Jones Bros Contractors Vice President Jimmy McCulloch owns the property, and has requested it be rezoned as an industrial/commercial location and annexed into Ward 4 in Lebanon.
The property is currently zoned for commercial/office use, meaning it supports office and business facilities, and if rezoned it would also allow varying degrees of industrial activity.
"We feel like the request does a pretty nice bookend to the existing industrial to the east as well as the commercial to the west," said Caleb Thorne of Ragan-Smith Associates, a civil engineering firm representing the project. "Taking into consideration the neighbors along Callis Road, we removed 10 acres from the request to maintain that balance. "
During a public hearing at the Planning Commission's meeting Tuesday, residents living directly south of the Leeville Road property spoke in opposition to the rezoning.
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"I personally feel that this is a terrible idea for the neighborhood, the city and the county," John Stallworth said. "If we continue to issue building permits for these large warehouses or industrial sites … we continue to miss out on so much as a community in terms of quality of life, family values and quite frankly, a lot of revenue potential for the county."
Stallworth predicted that a rezoning would negatively impact property and sales tax revenue over time by placing the residential area between two industrial sites.
"Vulcan already has a blasting permit on one side of Callis Road, and you'd now be issuing another blasting permit for the other side," he said. "We have invested a lot of money to build forever homes, in most everyone's case there. I'm sure none of you would ever desire to build between two landfills or blasting sites. Who would ever want to live between two blasting sites?"
Planning Director Paul Corder also commented on the potential for blasting on the property based on the site plan, and recommended the word be taken out of the draft.
"I've actually had several conversations about the term 'blasting,' because there's a section that still says 'blasting,'" he said. "Mining has been taking out, and quarrying has been taken out. There is still some language about processing material and it includes the word blasting. The concern I've been hearing is, what's the intent of the word blasting in that context?"
Thorne said the only blasting on the property would be related to site development, and that there are no intentions to use the location as a quarry.
Callis Road resident John Eldrige said his concern is with the traffic an industrial zoning could create, and the area's ability to handle that.
"They may have Vulcan Materials being there, but this is not an industrial-zoned area directly around it," John Eldridge said. "Within a mile of this, you have not a few but a few hundred residential homes that have either been built or are currently in construction. It's really hard for my pickup truck to drive by somebody with another vehicle on the side of it, and most times both cars have to get over into the grass to be able to do that."
Eldrige expects to see large trucks frequently driving in those conditions if the property is rezoned.
"The trucks are going to have a choice," he said. "They're going to have to drive out and enter on top of TN 109, and if they want to go back on the interstate and go west … they're going to have to make a decision on whether to clog up that intersection and turn their big trucks around, or more than likely, what they're probably going to do is take a left out of this industrial park. They're going to drive their tractor trailer trucks and large equipment trucks down our little small residential road, and it's going to be very dangerous for our kids, our cars and pedestrians coming down through there."
The Planning Commission's staff report for the meeting recommended approving the rezoning based on the surrounding properties, but Ragan-Smith ultimately volunteered to have the items deferred to December after members asked about any meetings with neighbors.
According to Thorne, Ragan-Smith had met with a single larger property owner on the west side of the Leevile Road site, but had not discussed the project with other nearby residents.
"Obviously there is confusion, lack of information, whatever you term you want to use," Planning Commission Vice-Chairman Mack McCluskey said. "I understand the property value concern … it makes sense in the interest of keeping relationships with the neighbors that you would start out by meeting with them. I think it would be very much in order for (Ragan-Smith) to do that before we deal with this."
The Lebanon Regional Planning Commission's next regular meeting is set for 4 p.m. on Dec. 17, in Lebanon City Hall's town meeting room at 200 N. Castle Heights Ave.