With Sunday’s heavy rains felt throughout the community, the Lebanon City Council is taking a closer look at its flood management options.

Recently, the council deferred action on the Barton’s Creek Watershed Flood Risk Management Project aimed at reducing flooding in and around the public square.

Although the square itself did not flood over the weekend, some members of the council saw the event as a sign to move forward.

“I don’t know if we should wait until 2021,” Ward 6 Councilor Jeni Lind Brinkman said. “I think it minimizes the importance of the square when we say ‘well, it’s just the square.’ It’s the center of our town, and that’s something we need to take seriously. And it is a high risk area in terms of flooding.”

If approved, that project would be a 65/35% split in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Public Works Commissioner Jeff Baines has estimated the city’s share at $750,000 and said it would mitigate roughly 6 inches of flood damage.

“The square is built on a creek, and eventually if you get enough water when it comes a flash flood there’s nowhere for it to go,” Ward 1 Councilor Joey Carmack said. “Whatever the Corps can do for us to have less (or) minimal flooding would be great. My dad’s worked for the city since the ‘90s, and I think it’s happened twice, three times. He was out in the flood this time, and I remember he would tell me every time it would go under.”

Ward 5 Councilor Tick Bryan said he wants the council to keep residential neighborhoods in mind as well, and asked the city to consider property owners’ rights in the process.

“I toured my ward during the flood, and had some calls of course, and people sending me photos,” he said. “A lot of these ditches, and one in particular … it caused a major yard flood over about three yards in my ward.”

Bryan said that a lack of brush pickup and yard maintenance can also contribute to flooding, citing the amount of brush he saw in Ward 5 after the flood.

“Something needs to be written down in stone to where we can eliminate that kind of thing, because that’s what’s causing a lot of the flooding in these neighborhoods,” he said. “People aren’t cleaning out their culverts under the driveways, that gets stopped up, you know. We’re just going to have to do some periodic maintenance one way or the other.”

The council also passed a first reading vote to adopt the South Hartmann Gateway Overlay after hearing feedback from citizens.

“I’m here tonight to tell you I think we’ve got a good plan, and I’m in support of this plan,” Ensley Hagan said. “It’s by no means perfect, but we’re all human beings and we can’t create perfect things. I think this plan addresses the issues that the city council wants, and the residents of this town want to see happen.”

Hagan had previously shared concerns with the plan’s language requiring new developments to include green spaces. He clarified that his public remarks on the item have been as a private citizen and property owner, not in his capacity as a General Sessions Court Judge.

Derek Dodson said he opposes a section of the overlay that would see housing built to the streets with alleyways in the rear.

“I support the South Hartmann Gateway Overlay except for this component of it,” he said. “It’s driving high density to the nth degree for no good reason that no one can justify, and you should not pass it until that is fixed.”

Ward 4 Councilor Chris Crowell said the overlay’s planning process spanned five years and involved community input from residents in the surrounding area.

“People wanted to see particular types of housing, particular types of service businesses, commercial, medical,” he said. “They also wanted to see some open space, so we’ve incorporated that into the plan. It’s not a perfect plan, as has been pointed out by Mr. Dodson and others … but this is something I think that we can be proud of. We will need to tweak it over time, but we’ve had a lot of people speak in favor of this and so I’m proud of it.”

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