A full house of more than 75 people saw a rezoning issue defeated by a four to one vote at La Vergne City Hall chambers Thursday night. The issue generating all the citizen concern was opposition to an ordinance which would have taken a two acre property at 466 Stones River Road from a Low Density Residential District to a High Density Residential District, changing the lot from large lot single family housing to high density attached town homes. The parcel's fate is linked to another nearby 24.5 acre parcel along Nir Shreibman Boulevard, also being considered for a change from low to high density, and also facing opposition.
"It was obvious tonight that La Vergne has passionate citizens who are proud to live in this city," said Rachel Heggen, the city's public relations specialist, in an aside after the public hearing. "I heard multiple residents speak highly on the city's achievements under the Waldron administration. I have complete confidence that whatever the Board decides on the rezoning request will be the best for La Vergne."
The public hearing session, scheduled for a half hour prior to the regular meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, lasted for a full hour, with nearly 20 citizens speaking for their allotted three minutes. The fervor was evident, with some speakers shouting or brought to tears, while the mayor and aldermen listened. Mayor Dennis Waldron, at the one hour mark, called for one more speaker, then gaveled the hearing closed.
Without a break, Waldron began the regular meeting of the board. After the prayer and Pledge of Allegiance, the parade of impassioned citizens began again in the regular meeting's public comment section with many of the same speakers, reiterating for the most part their earlier statements.
After all had their say, the mayor called for a vote, in which the rezoning ordinance was defeated. The companion ordinance for the 24.5 acre parcel was voted back to the Planning Commission for additional work, as some of the property may in fact be Low Density Residential and Medium Density Residential.
The property owner's attorney, Thomas V. White, advocated for his client and the project, stating that quality town homes are good housing for the workforce of La Vergne and will continue to be needed regardless of the fate of this particular parcel and project.
The property owner, Amnon Shreibman, had stated his desire to be at the public meeting, but he was out of the country for the 20 year anniversary of the death of his son, Nir Shreibman, who died along with 72 other soldiers in a serious military helicopter training accident. La Vergne's Nir Shreibman Boulevard and the Schreibman Library are named for him.
The primary spokeswoman for the groundswell of citizen concern, La Vergne resident and real estate agent Deborah Heughan, used public speaking, door knocking and social media to rally her neighbors to oppose the zoning issue. She brought a petition with more than 560 signatures to the public meeting and asked they be entered into the record. After the rezoning ordinance defeat, Heughan said, "We know that more homes are going to be built. We're not going to stop that, we can't stop that, and I wouldn't try to. I'm asking for responsible zoning."
"We appreciate the citizens' input on this ordinance," said Waldron. "After much consideration, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen has declined to approve the rezoning request to amend 466 Stones River Road from R1 (low-density) residential zoning to R3 (high-density) residential zoning. We feel this is the best decision for La Vergne."