The Murfreesboro City Council on Thursday unanimously approved on first reading a request to annex and zone 83 acres around Lee Lane as heavy industrial.
The project would be associated with a site that was annexed and zoned heavy industrial on first reading by the council in May totaling about 233 acres. The second reading has not taken place yet.
Brian Berryman has said he wants to build a corporate headquarters and manufacturing operations for his Old Hickory Buildings & Sheds, Metalmax Roofing & Siding and MaxSteel Buildings businesses on part of the property. The rest of the site would be speculative heavy industrial use.
That would go against the city’s long-term land use plan for the site.
According to city documents from the May case, “The Murfreesboro 2035 Future Land Use Map indicates that Light Industrial uses are the most appropriate land use for the northern portion of the subject property and that Suburban Residential is the most appropriate land uses for the southern portion of the subject property.”
Developers have said at several meetings that the site’s highest and best use has changed because CSX Transportation has agreed to install a rail spur. New rail spurs are extremely rare, said real estate agent John Harney, who is one of the principals of the development.
Council member Bill Shacklett asked Harney to address rumors that CSX wants to install a railyard on the property. Shacklett called it a switching yard.
Harney said, “I can tell you absolutely there has never been a discussion about a switching yard.” He added that CSX has only talked with him about a spur.
Several people spoke during a public hearing on the matter.
Bruce White of Lee Lane said the industrial land is virtually on top of his home’s driveway, so a 60-foot setback with a berm as proposed is not sufficient. He said a concrete wall would be a better barrier than a dirt berm and evergreen trees.
One community resident spoke in favor of the development. Richard Baine said he previously directed a manufacturing facility like the one Brian Berryman plans. He said the manufacturing building will use metal walls with spray insulation which will act as a sound buffer, absorbing noise.
Conflict of interest concerns
One person who lives near the development but is in the unincorporated part of the county shared her concerns. Jo Ann Plough said she has attended several public meetings with her but their pleas have not been answered.
Plough read a prepared statement in which she mentioned the city’s recent property tax increase and accused the city of mismanaging its revenues. She made an accusation that the attorney for zoning applicant Brian Berryman is also an attorney for the City of Murfreesboro.
Plough asked for more time to speak, but Mayor Shane McFarland told Plough her allotted three minutes to speak had ended.
McFarland then asked City Attorney Adam Tucker if he or any of his staff worked for any outside developer. Tucker said no, nor did he represent any other outside entity. McFarland pointed out that Plough lives in the county, not the city, and he said her accusations about conflict of interest were serious allegations.
Outside of the meeting, Plough said her reference was to attorney Jeff Reed, who is working with Berryman and real estate agent John Harney on the development. Reed represents the Rutherford County School Board but not the City of Murfreesboro. Plough said the mayor took her comments about city taxes out of context and that she did not claim to be a city resident.
Later in the meeting, Shacklett addressed the audience. He said that he and his colleagues do listen to people and just because they rule a way people do not like does not mean citizens’ input did not make a difference. He said the landscape berm that the developers are installing is an example of adjustments being made from public input.
After the meeting, Harney said that in addition to Berryman’s companies, the site would include “complimentary uses” producing “good jobs.” Having the rail spur will allow developers to “pick and choose” who locates there, he said, and added that the Tennessee Valley Authority and Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce are interested in marketing the site.