A metal building construction company is one step closer to assembling an industrial park on the south end of Murfreesboro after overcoming impassioned opposition from residents who live next to the site during a public hearing last Wednesday.
The Murfreesboro Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the request by Brian Berryman and the Jernigan family that owns an 85-acre tract the businessman wants to buy and develop. The project will go to the City Council for first reading within the next couple of months.
The site runs along the east side of Interstate 24 and Butler Drive and is bordered by South Rutherford Boulevard to the north. It is surrounded by factories, agricultural land and residential neighborhoods that feed onto several streets, including Lee Lane and Elam Road.
The 85 acres are being added to a 233.3-acre tract that Berryman’s representatives moved through the Planning Commission in March. The City Council approved that site’s annexation and zoning to Heavy Industrial on first reading on May 2.
City officials say that Berryman wants to relocate his existing businesses to a portion of the site. He owns Old Hickory Buildings & Sheds, Metalmax Roofing & Siding and MaxSteel Buildings. His portion of the site would include a corporate headquarters as well as manufacturing facilities. Part of the complex would be set aside for speculative users.
Berryman did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Rob Molchan of SEC Inc. has served as one of Berryman’s representatives. He has said more than once that a major reason this property is attractive is because CSX is willing to allow a rail spur line, an offer that the railroad rarely makes, according to him and city officials.
Residents oppose plan
Dozens of comments were made by members of the public during hearings for the annexation and zoning cases, often by residents sharing concerns about the impact of heavy industrial uses being located next to their homes.
Many spoke at both hearings, and some spoke up from the audience when they disagreed with others’ remarks. Noise pollution and industrial traffic on substandard county roads, as well as traffic backups on nearby roads like Elam Road were major points of contention.
Two representatives of the Jernigan family spoke in favor of the project, with one saying they have the right to sell their land.
Residents said that Berryman never held a neighborhood meeting with them, and complained the city did not give adequate notice. City officials said they followed their guidelines in publicizing the application.
Mike Knowles was one of the residents sharing his concerns. He said the land use approval process is broken. He told the commission the county residents were not represented by the city, and “county people be darned. In the end you really don’t care.”
Eric Plough, another resident, acknowledged that a property owner has the right to sell land, and the residents are not against industry, but want the project to be less invasive. He was one who asked commissioners if they would approve such a project in their backyards.
Diane Parker spoke of her family’s living in the neighborhood since the late 1970s and said the proposed buffer between the industrial site and houses, which is 60 feet in depth, is not adequate. She asked why the project was being rushed.
She also asked why the commission was not following the 2035 Comprehensive Land Use Map, a document that outlines general types of uses for properties; that plan spells out suburban neighborhood uses for Berryman’s site.
John Harney, another representative for Berryman and the Jernigans, said his client acknowledges the residents’ concerns. He suggested the county road department post signs on both ends of Lee Lane to order trucks to not use the road. He said Berryman would comply with city noise and light ordinances.
The commission asked Harney whether Berryman would be willing to install a landscape berm with vegetation to act as an additional buffer. That would have an estimated cost of $1 million to $1.3 million. They also asked about installing a gate that would close Lee Lane at the industrial site to all traffic but emergency responders.
City staff said the commission could ask for those conditions but could not make them a requirement. Installing a gate on Lee would be up to the city traffic engineer. Harney said that Berryman would agree to those terms once development began on the Jernigan portion of site.
Also, Berryman plans to restrict some types of uses in the subdivision plat. Those prohibited uses include explosives, composting, radioactive materials and an automobile graveyard.