Headlines – Mt. Juliet News – November 7, 2007

Need for park land moves to front burner
Thursday night devoted to discussion

Special City Commission meeting called by City Manager Randy Robertson.  The special meeting was to discuss  the rules and responsibilities of the newly formed Park Land Search Committee (PLSC) and to hear the results of a PARTAS (that’s the Park and Recreation Technical Advisory Service of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation) study of Mt. Juliet’s current park system and needs.

editorial teaser:
Green space is a rare commodity in MJ these days

– Publius

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Headlines – Mt. Juliet News – November 7, 2007

  1. Butch Huber

    Publius,

    When does the new road land acquisition committee next meet?

  2. Butch Huber

    I read on an e-mail blurb that I get from the Lebanon Democrat that “the City” (Whichever city that is…I suppose it is Lebanon) had a meeting or is having a meeting on a Tuesday to discuss the growth needs of the city over the next two decades. I think that is a brilliant idea. Perhaps that meeting will blossom into an effort to develop a master growth plan…imagine how much that would help.

    The more I think about Mt. Juliet the more I realize that it is nothing more than a massive development like Providence, only it the city government doesn’t have a profit motive…or at least it shouldn’t (I can’t speak for some people in the government). Don’t you think that the city should have a set of plans just like a developer is required to have?

  3. Bobby Franklin

    Mr. Huber,

    Here is a list of Mt. Juliet’s growth plans:

    Twenty Year Major Thoroughfare Plan – Created in 1998 to address 20-year major road construction needs. It has been amended only once that I am aware of.

    Land Use Plan – This has been in place since the late nineties but amended often. There was a major amendment in 2001 and another scheduled for 2007.

    Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan – Adopted in 2001 and never formally amended.

    Master Greenway Plan – Adopted in 2003 and never formally amended.

    Sewer Pocket Plan – Adopted in 2001. This plan has been followed successfully and has contributed to the current commercial retail boom on Highway 70.

    The Town Center Plan – Adopted in 2005 and never amended.

    The problem with the city, currently, is not so much the lack of long-range plans – but the failure of the commission to abide by or implement them. There is also the inherent problem that no elected commission can vote to impose restrictions on future elected commissions.

    It seems to me that the present commission has much more serious problems than just failing to implement plans. Understanding and honoring the charter would be a big step in the right direction. Obeying state law would also be a plus.

    Bobby Franklin

  4. Butch Huber

    Bobby,

    The current commission doesn’t even follow their own resolutions or ordinances. For you or I to hope that they would follow state law when there is no governing body that has the will to do anything to discipline them for violating the law is just asking too much.

    The master growth plan that I encourage is one that is dynamic, meaning it will constantly be updated as the city grows and as needs are identified. It should also be developed as one comprehensive, coordinated and fluid plan. Funds should be allocated to develop a thorough and complete analysis of what the city needs currently and what it will need in the next 2, 3 ,5 ,10, and 20 years. If plans are made and not constantly updated they become practically useless over time. Plans that are put in place in 1998 and updated only once since that time are probably not going to accurately address the needs of the city.

    Interestingly, the thing that seems to have been kept current and followed most successfully is the sewer pocket plan…does that mean that the only thing the commission is really worried about is a bunch of crap? (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.)

    With the use of AutoCad the city could develop a functional model of the city in its various stages of growth. If I were going to build a house I would have master building plans, if I were building a car I would have a model and drawings, if I were building most anything I would have master plans to ensure that the pieces all fit together nicely and that all the parts function together as intended.

    The commission may not be able to impose restrictions on future elected commissions, but they can put things in motion that are difficult for a future commission to reverse or change. If they put together a comprehensive, coordinated, well design, well thought-out, master growth plan for the city, one where citizens, business people, and developers could actually see what the city has planned, it would be very difficult for future commissions to drastically change what was going to happen in the next 2, 5, or even 7 years because the wheels would already be in motion. Once a master growth plan is developed, with each year that passed the time-frame for which the commission could not make drastic changes would geometrically increase. This city doesn’t have 50 or 100 years of growth at the current growth trends…it might have 20 at best before we max out our growth area. So as time marches on, each commission will have less and less room to influence future growth. Its like when you go fishing. If you hook a fish 100 yards away from you the fish can swim back and forth over a very long distance, but as you reel it in there is less and less room for the fish to swim. The room for the fish to swim drastically declines with each revolution of the reel. In fact, the room for movement geometrically decreases as you reel it in.

    A master growth plan leaves less and less room for collusion or subterfuge as time passes. A master growth plan would make it increasingly harder and harder for people to make backroom deals. A master growth plan, over time, would take a lot of politics out of development.

    During the depositions in the investigation against the mayor, brought on by Hatton Wright’s complaint, it was disclosed that the mayor and Chris Ryan of Pulte homes went out for a ride to look over Mr. Ryan’s project (Del Webb I believe). The mayor disclosed that during that drive Chris Ryan supposedly told the mayor that he needed to get permits to start building houses even though the roads were not built yet. He supposedly told the mayor that if he were able to get those permits it would save him a lot of money, money that he might be able to add to the $100,000 that Pulte was putting toward a ladder truck for the city. Next thing we hear the mayor has called a meeting at city hall during which she allegedly is slamming her hand on a table and demanding that the city issue the permits to Chris Ryan. Hatton Wright has some words with Mr. Ryan in retort to an off color remark that Chris Ryan made and the real trouble begins. The mayor is embarrassed and starts hounding the City Manager to force Hatton Wright to make a public apology. Rob refuses and the next thing I know, you, Rob, and Hatton are all on the outside of city hall looking in.

    There is a huge difference between dealing with a private entity and dealing with a public entity. If Mr. Ryan were dealing with a private entity his offer would have been just fine…the owner of the private entity has the right to alter company policy as he or she sees fit. A public entity, especially a government entity, is a horse of a different color. When you try to influence public policy with the promise of money it seems very much like a bribe to me. The backroom dealings that I have heard of make me wonder how much more goes on that you and I never hear about. It is my contemplation on these matters that caused me to come up with the idea of creating a master development or master growth plan so that we as citizens, and business owners, and land owners, and developers could see exactly what is going on with the city. It doesn’t mean that there won’t still be backroom deals going on…it will just be much tougher to pull it off if we are able to watch.

    However, beyond my paranoia about what I am seeing in my government, I also feel that it just makes a lot of practical sense to have a master growth plan. It appears to me that we have worn-out and dated fragments of a master growth plan, but we certainly don’t have a master growth plan.

    A master growth plan is something that the city could sell! We are a city that is geared toward business…not so much toward residential. I say that because our means of increasing revenue is through cash registers and not toward property taxes. So, in order for the city of Mt. Juliet to thrive it must attract businesses, especially those with cash registers. We are most likely going to become the shopping Mecca of East Nashville, and perhaps all of Nashville. A master growth plan could help sell the virtues of the city to prospective commercial (and residential) developers. If we are to become the shopping Mecca of Nashville, I would prefer to have Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris, Nordtrom’s, Macy, Nieman Marcus, Emerils, and other fine restaurants and retail outlets here instead of a bunch of bargin shopper businesses. Mt. Juliet has more to sell than any other place in the Nashville MSA. We have two lakes, available land, a race track, the airport, opryland hotel and the Grand ol’ Opry, we have the commuter train, and much more. Someone please explain to me why a house in Brentwood sells for $100,000 to $300,000 more than the same house here in Mt. Juliet (What does Brentwood offer that we can’t offer?). A well conceived master growth plan would enable the city to market itself as the premier location in all of Middle Tennessee and would give us the ammo to back up that statement. Name another location that matches what we have to sell. You can’t, can you? That is because it doesn’t exist. If we play our cards right, this city will experience a boom in property value like nothing the Nashville MSA has ever seen. Those who are already here and those who get here first will benefit the most!

    It is hard to sell what you can’t see. It is also hard to get people to invest their money in a city if they can’t trust the local government. If investors can’t discern the politics of the city because everything gets done in backrooms than they are going to be less likely to invest.

    Let me just cut this short for now…ask yourself, “Do I trust this commission?” and “Do I think this commission has the ability to think so abstractly that they don’t need a master growth plan to keep it all together in their minds?” if the answer to both of those questions is “yes” than I guess we don’t need a comprehensive growth plan…but if you answered “no”….

  5. Bobby Franklin

    Mr. Huber,

    I agree that the city needs to update it’s growth plans – but it does no good when those plans are ignored. This commission has a history of ignoring it’s Charter, Inter-local Agreements, Contracts, Rules of Order, and State Law. What are the odds of it honoring a growth plan?

    The latest example of the commission “doing as it pleases” is the recent appointment of a park land search committee. Why would they do that? There has been a Parks Board in place for years made up of very capable people who have already been searching for land – and finding it. Perhaps the Parks Board was not “finding” the land the commission really wants to buy.

    Bobby Franklin

  6. Butch Huber

    Mr. Franklin, if what you are saying is that we must first elect a commission that would actually follow the U.S. Constitution, the Constitution of the State of Tennessee, the Charter of the City of Mt. Juliet, the Ordinances of the City of Mt. Juliet, contracts, inter-local agreements, Robert’s Rules of Order “AND” the resolutions of the City of Mt. Juliet…YOU ASK TOO MUCH! What do you think this is anyway…civil government?

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