Local firearms manufacturer Barrett Enterprises has filed suit against Rutherford County and Tennessee’s Department of Transportation for $4.1 million plus court costs and attorney fees.
Ronnie Barrett, owner and founder of the company, filed suit Friday, alleging TDOT’s refusal to widen Miller Lane near Epps Mill Road has cost the company.
“Upon completion of the expansion of Barrett Firearms, TDOT changed its position on the expansion of Miller Lane …” the suit said. “TDOT designed a new road that would result in violations of local county zoning codes, building codes, Tennessee Water Quality Control Act of 1977 and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation water rules and regulations.”
TDOT spokeswoman B.J. Doughty said she “can not comment on pending litigation.”
In 2004, Barrett Firearms received a $40 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense to produce the company’s signature .50-caliber rifles for U.S. military snipers in Iraq.
The company’s current 20,000 square foot facility and 60 employees were unable to complete the contract without a 48,000 square foot expansion and the addition of 50 employees.
In order to access land for the needed plant expansion, Barrett proposed extending Miller Lane, next to Interstate 24 and in the beginning TDOT agreed to the plans.
Barrett proposed extending the Rutherford County road at the company’s expense. The extension required TDOT to move a fence adjacent to I-24.
“The gist of our problem is the I-24 fence that is blocking the development of 32 acres of commercial property along I-24,”neighboring landowner C.C. (Bud) Elliot wrote to TDOT in February 2005. “This is blocking any extension of Miller Lane.”
But after an initial assessment from TDOT engineers, the study found storm water issues and fears of possible flooding.
And Barrett had already built the 48,000-square foot plant expansion for $4.1 million.
In September 2007, TDOT said it would not authorize the extension of Miller Lane or moving the fence line.
Barrett has since been sued by Brenda Benz-Elliot because she sold the company more than 5 acres for the site of the plant expansion, contingent on the Miller Lane extension.
The contingency was added because Benz-Elliot cannot access her remaining 100 acres of property without the road extension.
Barrett is suing the state and county for damages and has requested a jury trial.