At its last monthly meeting, the commission voted to send three items to the Lebanon City Council with no recommendation, a move that Lebanon city attorney Andy Wright said was outside the bounds of Tennessee state law. The city council must have a recommendation from the planning commission before it may cast a vote on issues of annexation and zoning.
Tuesday night, the Lebanon City Council sent three projects, a total of 10 items, back to planners for reconsideration. All three projects included annexation requests, plans of service and zoning requests in different line items on the agenda.
County planning director Paul Corder led the discussion in which the commissioners discussed the issue. Commissioners asked if they could get more details when they make their decisions.
“I think it’s two-fold,” said Lebanon economic development director Sarah Haston. “[It’s about] what is the use is and the plan is for the annexation. Certain times, it’s a commercial rezone, which we know will be office space, which we know will turn into jobs. We know that will be a benefit to the community.”
“If it’s retail, we can break down what the property tax breakdown will be with the development and then the potential sales tax revenue with the development. Yes, there is cost associated with the development, but there’s also positive impact financially for the community with the jobs of development, the jobs afterwards and the sales tax revenue and the property tax.”
Haston said the numbers, before the annexation comes to the commission, are reviewed by city staff.
“The project itself is going to be a valuable product for the business owner,” Haston said. “They are trying to do their own performance, and those are things that they take into consideration. There are positive effects in the community from those numbers, as well. That’s the other side of the story that isn’t part of your decision today.”
Commission chair David Taylor told Corder he believed the commission “doesn’t have but half the story. What you have balances it out. The impact fees, all kinds of money that comes from a development that we don’t know about.”
Commissioner Mack McCluskey said, “Based on the information that we get, there’s absolutely no reason to recommend any of them.”
Commissioner Chad Williams said he wants to know what is going on a property when the zoning request arrives.
“Like the one on Hickory Ridge we said no to last month,” Williams said. “If we zoned it the way they wanted it zoned, then they could put 1,000 apartments on there and decrease the home value of those around them. But, if a grocery store that is rumored to go there was what we knew was going there, then it would be a benefit for those living there.
“When I’m debating what is going on with these, I think, ‘how am I going to like it if I lived there?’”
McCluksey said he wanted to get a “firm commitment” from developers as to what will be built on the property.
Corder said the planners can’t “get a firm commitment” of what’s going to be built on a property. However, “we can make them go through the effort of showing us what potential development could be there and give us something to work with. But, we can’t enforce what’s on the sketch [plan]. That’s just a justification of what they’re doing.
“I would caution you that in the planning commission, the criteria can’t be what you would want next to your house. We’re not planning Lebanon for any one purpose. I don’t plan the city for my purposes.”
Corder said the preferences people have are diverse. “You can’t think that just because I would like it, everyone would be for it.”
Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash said the commission should come up with some kind of recommendation for the city council, as is required by state law.
“This is a political group. Our jobs are on the line sometimes,” Ash said. “We listen to the commission and the developers. Trying to put that together is not an easy thing to do. We need to make the decision as to what you think is right. It’s not that we don’t trust or like the planning commission and won’t do what you say. We’re listening to you, the developers, [Corder], and then we decide. You need to work hard and do what you think is right and let the commission do what they think is right.”
In addition, the commission discussed the details of 18 properties, which were in various stages of development.
The commission’s regular meeting will take place Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the Town Meeting Hall.
News editor Sinclaire Sparkman contributed to this report.