Thursday’s meeting of the Murfreesboro CIty Council included a public hearing for a “landmark” mixed-use development in the Gateway Overlay District and a discussion of changing municipal elections to coincide with county and state elections.
State Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) was in attendance and addressed the council during a public hearing to rezone 20.36 acres along Robert Rose Drive from Residential Single Family 15 and General Office to a Planned Urban Development zone by applicant Lifestyle Communities of Ohio.
“I am the closest neighbor of this proposed development, and I have lived there for more than 28 years,” Ketron said. “I don’t come to speak against the rezoning, but I encourage you to look into other developments built by this developer.”
Alan Thompson, of Lifestyle Communities, gave a Power Point presentation on the proposed development. He said the development would “be the first of its kind in the Middle Tennessee area.”
The development proposal consists of 128 one-bedroom and 275 two-bedroom townhomes, and includes a community park with a fitness center, swimming pool, volley ball courts and 4,800-square foot pub.
Multi-family units would be located above the fitness center, making the project a mixed-use development.
“This would provide young professionals an incentive to stay in Murfreesboro after graduating from MTSU,” Thompson said.
The development would be built on a portion of a 117-acre tract owned by Bill Gatton of Blountville, Tenn.
“Mr. Gatton is the next-door neighbor of my Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, and he has certainly been a large contributor to my success in the state Senate,” Ketron said. “But I encourage you to look at all of the potential issues with this development.”
Ketron cited concerns of the use of vinyl, which has not been condoned in the past within the Gateway Design Overlay, traffic issues and flooding problems near the property.
Councilman Chris Bratcher then questioned City Planning Director Joseph Aydelott about flooding and traffic problems.
“Has a traffic study been done?” Bratcher asked.
Aydelott answered one had not yet been done and advised the council flooding issues had been largely alleviated with detention ponds and redeveloping the site would lower the elevation of the road, further alleviating flood issues.
The proposed rezoning passed the planning commission unanimously, but Aydelott did mention the commission had “a lot of trouble” with the use of vinyl.
“This is an extremely aggresive attempt to allow vinyl siding in the Gateway Overlay,” Councilman Shane McFarland said. “I am not in favor of this.”
Councilwoman Madelyn Scales-Harris then motioned to defer action on the recommendation, seconded by Councilman Ron Washington, and the motion to defer passed on a 5-2 vote with Councilman Toby Gilley and Mayor Tommy Bragg voting against.
The subject of moving Murfreesboro’s municipal election date was then raised again by Gilley, who had requested advisement from the County Attorney Susan McGannon on the issue during last week’s council meeting.
McGannon said her research had found an inconsistency between the city charter and a new state law could jeopardize the implementation of such an election date change.
The inconsistency arises in the filling of vacancies on the council and school board, which became an issue recently when the council filled seats on the City School Board left vacant by the retirement of Ray Butrum and the death of Dennis Rainier.
The council appointed Collier Smith and Nancy Rainier to fill those seats, respectively, but Murfreesboro’s growth beyond 100,000 in population requires a special election for vacant municipal seats.
McGannon advised the council to solve this issue through the state legislature before seeking a change of the current April election date.
“Can we not proceed on both issues at the same time?” asked Gilley
“You could do so legally, but I do not believe that to be the best course of action,” replied McGannon. “It will make an already complex situation worse.”
Gilley then asked McGannon to compile a proposal for changing the election date, and Scales-Harris requeted the same for a council district plan as well.
“My concern is increasing voter participation, eliminating confusion and saving taxpayer dollars,” Gilley said. “I would be ready to vote on it at the next meeting.”
Asked whether he supported a change in the April election date, Bragg indicated he would not be in favor of it.
“The county has its own election, the state has its own election, and the federal government has its own election, and they are constantly changing the county and federal primary date, which confuses voters,” he said. “Our municipal offices would be listed last on a very long ballot and our candidates would have to compete with a host of other offices, which would further confuse voters when it comes to municipal issues.
“Additionally, city residents are given a limit of three signs in their yards, which would be difficult to abide by when a host of candidates are on the same ballot, and candidates would have to compete for air time, billboard space, and print ad space,” Bragg continued. “This would further drive up the costs of campaigns, and make money even more of the focus of politics, which is already a huge problem.”