Despite protests that rezoning Indian Hills for a restaurant would compromise the golf course community and subsidize poor management, City Council members approved the plan 6-1 Thursday night.
Indian Hills Golf Course owners requested change in their Planning United Development zoning for nearly 2 acres at Calumet Trace and South Church Street to sell the land for construction of a high-end restaurant.
Councilman Toby Gilley, an Indian Hills resident, was the only council member to vote against the rezoning, saying there was too much uncertainty about the restaurant. Based on commitments owners made for a high-quality restaurant, it could be a Shoney’s or Waffle House, residents said, though the latter stays open 24 hours a day.
“That gives us a lot of pause,” Gilley noted.
But Councilman Doug Young, who said his daughter’s family lives in the neighborhood, called for a vote to approve the rezoning, backed by Councilman Eddie Smotherman.
“I would never do anything that jeopardizes her family or well-being,” Young said, adding the issue has been studied for at least eight months and should receive a vote Thursday night.
Owners, including John Floyd and golf course general manager Jim McElyea, have sold the idea as necessary to help them pare debt so they can improve the course and keep it running.
But some residents disagreed with that business philosophy.
“I love the golf course. I want the golf course to survive, but I don’t think it will,” said Franklin Cowan, a resident and avid golfer, during the Thursday public hearing. “I don’t think it will survive even if they build the restaurant.”
He and other residents contended that the council would be setting a bad precedent by altering a planned unit development to bail out a struggling business.
Still others, such as Melissa Baker, who has a 5-year-old daughter, said they fear increased traffic from the restaurant would endanger young children who ride bicycles and golf carts in the neighborhood.
“We feel we don’t have enough of the specifics,” she said. “It’s really scary for us as homeowners.”
The Indian Hills Homeowners Association raised a petition with some 450 signatures opposed to the zoning change and restaurant. Many residents are still upset that the PUD was amended in 2007, paving the way for construction of a Bojangles chicken restaurant.
The new proposal would move the tee boxes on the par-four 12th hole closer to homes and turn it into a par-three.
Some residents said they aren’t enthused with the idea, but they felt it is needed to keep the course solvent.
Runnymeade resident Bill Murphy told the council, “I’m in favor of whatever it takes to keep the golf course going, and I’m planning on being around for a long time.”
Floyd, owner of Ole South Properties, reminded the council that when he and others bought the golf course after it close in 1997, the tennis court gate had a chain on it. The courts are now open, and his group bought the adjacent land and also built the swimming pool.
“I think a high-end restaurant there is great for the city of Murfreesboro,” he said, pointing out several neighborhoods along South Church Street have businesses such as restaurants and banks in front of them. Floyd lived at Indian Hills for many years but has since moved to Georgetown.
Murfreesboro attorney Jeff Reed, on behalf of the golf course owners, presented a set of restrictive covenants that would prohibit any more land along South Church from being developed for a purpose other than a golf course. They would be in effect “forever,” he said.
Some residents asked the council to defer the matter so they could have time to review the restrictive covenants. But ultimately the council opted to move forward with the vote.
Golf course owners also agreed to deed land where monuments are located at the neighborhood entrance to the homeowners association. A berm is to be built to screen the development from the closest residents, and Floyd agreed to add more landscaping during the meeting, in addition to saying the restaurant would have to close at 11 p.m. from Sunday through Thursday.
Golf course owners agreed to prohibit outdoor music at the restaurant and to limit garbage pickup to daylight hours.
No full-scale traffic study was conducted on the project because those are usually limited to larger developments such as Walmart, according to Planning Director Joseph Aydelott. But project engineer Bill Huddleston did prepare a traffic analysis, which showed minimal traffic in and out of the restaurant throughout the day.
Huddleston said 30 cars would enter the restaurant at its peak hour and 15 would leave. An entrance and exit would be built onto South Church Street, which would require approval by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, according to Huddleston.
Another access would be situated on Calumet Trace, which has a traffic signal with South Church.