Headline from the Tennessean – December 30, 2007

Tension of new vs. old replays in Mt. Juliet

One-time mavericks now on receiving end of change

“. . . Mt. Juliet, about 15 miles from downtown Nashville in Wilson County, is one of the fastest-growing cities in Tennessee. On its outskirts, the huge retail and residential development Providence and its affluent neighbors are attracting a slew of new businesses and more than 3,000 homes at a time when many other towns are experiencing a construction slowdown. “

Somewhat oddly, there’s no mention of the current Mayor. Though, of course, Commissioner Justice does get his digs in:

City Commissioner Ray Justice said he believes city officials have failed to address needs in northern Mt. Juliet, where he’s lived all his life, because they’ve spent so much time and effort on the growing southern end.

“We haven’t had a lot of attention paid to us,” he said of the businesses and homes along Lebanon Road. “We just haven’t upgraded and refurbished the area.”

The story in the Tennessean has also generated several interesting comments on the Tennessean web site.

UPDATE: As of 1/28/2008 the link above no longer works. The Tennessean has altered their website and is now charging for access to archived articles. Our apologies.

-Publius

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Headline from the Tennessean – December 30, 2007

  1. Butch Huber

    Mt. Juliet is going to experience growing pains….there really isn’t any way to avoid it.

    It appears as though the repeal of the liquor by the drink ordinance has cleared the way for massive growth in this community. It is a shame that alcohol could be such an integral component to commerce, and I wouldn’t have believed it was until I saw it with my own eyes, but it does seem to be a reality.

    There really isn’t an easy way to put the genie back in the bottle here. Kill the growth and you kill the investment into the growth. Fortunes would be lost.

    The new people are going to want to change things…count on it. As long as land owners sell land, newcomers are going to continue to come to Mt. Juliet. Once here, newcomers become the new “old guard”. Mt. Juliet’s growth seems to have been stiffled for many years as areas like Brentwood, Green Hills, and Belleview continued to grow. Now that they are being sold out and the land values are through the roof the next logical step, now that the barrier to growth (The sacred liquor by the drink) has been removed, is to build Mt. Juliet.

    Mt. Juliet is the best place in all of the Nashville area to live. With two lakes, the airport, the racetrack, shopping, etc. Mt. Juliet is an ideal setting within this metropolitan area to live. Why wouldn’t people want to move here. But just because they move here from someplace else doesn’t mean that they don’t count.

    As far as the north part of the city being overlooked…wasn’t Lebanon Road just a two lane a few years ago? Isn’t there shopping centers being built along Lebanon Road?

  2. Anita Evans

    Mr. Huber,

    I wish you could see the lovely view I have from my kitchen window. Its a 25-30 foot pile of rock stretching for 50 feet. I joke and say they are building Mount Juliet back there, since we never actually had a hill named that before.

    I also have 2 retention ponds going in on either side of my property, so there goes the kids playing out side due to the mosquitoes.

    My neighborhood was rezoned from one house per one acre to cram as many of those suckers as you can get. We went from 100 foot of road frontage required to 50 foot of road frontage. We all have single story ranch style houses and will now be looking up on the hill to 2.5 story mostly brick houses with I have no doubt, a lovely wooden deck facing us.

    The bulldozers have done their damage, they’ve blasted enough rock out of there to make the aforementioned man made mountain.

    I did have to smile when I walked the property pre- blasting and saw the roped off area with a 15 foot deep sinkhole that was about 30 feet long, and 6 feet away from it was stake that side Lot 45.

    So, 17 acres 40 plus houses, a road and 5 retention ponds, should be fabulous.

    All driving down an already over capapcity Nonaville Road.

    Adding approximately 100 more students for Mount Juliet Schools.

    Why can’t we get the infrastructure in place before we add these new subdivisions?

  3. Butch Huber

    Ms. Evans,

    I am not sure why exactly you addressed me with your e-mail as I am not a commissioner and there is little I can do to help you with your concerns, but, at the risk of showing my ignorance, I will give you the best answer to your question I can. (Beware, there are as many opinions on this subject as there are people in the city, and I am sure that there will be several who will post to try to discredit what I tell you and prove me wrong, believe who you want to believe, I am just giving you my opinion and insight as I understand things.)

    Fact is, you can have infrastructure in place before we add new subdivisions. However, it will come with significant cost to you. Currently, the city charges an impact fee for each new house that is constructed. As I understand it, those impact fees are supposed to go toward the development of road and parks. If the city put in place a policy requiring that infrastructure be developed “before” developments are approved, (I take it that when you use the term “infrastructure” you are referring to expanding and building roadways.) rather than building developments before roads, the city would have to foot the entire bill for road development out of current budget or it would have to float bonds. There simply is not, and I am quite certain there never has been, enough money to develop all of the roads in Mt. Juliet without a significant property tax or without floating bonds for road development. If we are to build roads “before” developments are approved, then you and I have to be willing to pay property tax. Ostensibly, we would be doing all of this so that those who move into Mt. Juliet don’t become a burden to the rest of us when they get here. If the city floats bonds for growth rather than increase the property tax from 0.0% to some other amount, then the city is gambling on growth rather than builders gambling on growth, and if they are wrong (the city government) you and I get to pay for their mistake.

    As far as the mountain of rock, sink holes, etc., if there is going to be growth in Mt. Juliet, there are going to be mountains of rock, sink holes, etc., that is just a part of the package. I live in Willoughby Station where we have dealt with the same type things for quite some time. The neighborhood is finally about finished, but I understand what you are referring to, or at least I think I do. The mountain of rock will eventually go away, unfortunately, the retention pond is probably there to stay.

    As far as lot sizes are concerned, I am all for bigger lot size requirements, but then again, I am not a developer. The economy is changing, and as such, there is less of a market for large, expensive homes today than there was in the last part of the twentieth century: as a city, we missed the bus on this one in the 1990’s. Today, spec home builders need to focus on the mid-ranged priced homes if they want to make a profit (Or at least that is what I have been told)

    “We could have been a contenda.” When Belleview, Brentwood, and Franklin were blowing and going, Mt. Juliet was still a sleepy bedroom community. I am not sure exactly why everything turned out the way it did, but I believe that it had to do with the city’s restrictive ordinances on liquor by the drink. Restaurants supposedly wouldn’t touch Mt. Juliet because they wouldn’t be able to make a profit without liberal liquor ordinances. So, as other markets took off, Mt. Juliet seemed locked in time.

    Then, they passed liquor by the drink in Mt. Juliet. Before long we have a very impressive shopping center, lots of restaurants, a major development going in, several other smaller shopping centers, and an enormous shopping center on the way. I could be wrong about how things happened, but I have described how I see it.

    On a side note, one of the things that may be stopping a lot of growth on the north side of town is the beer ordinances. As I understand it, Liquor laws are controlled by the state, but beer is controlled by the city. I believe that in order to serve beer an establishment must be at least 1000 feet from any school or church. Finding an open commercial lot that is 1000 feet from any school or church on Lebanon Road is quite a task I believe. Those establishments that serve liquor also want to serve beer, and to serve beer they have to be situated properly. I am just guessing, but if liquor by the drink spurred growth on the south side of Mt. Juliet, perhaps the beer ordinances are stifling growth on the north side…???

    (Also, I believe Ray Justice has had a difficult time getting the other city commissioners to agree to annex all of the area along Nonaville Road, and until they do, you will continue to deal with the issues you are dealing with because part, if not all, of Nonaville Road is in the county, and the county has no long-term vested interest in developing Nonaville Road because the city will eventually annex it. (Kinda like a Zen riddle, isn’t it?) The other commissioners don’t have to deal with your wrath because you don’t vote for them, so they have no reason not to vote for new developments in Ray’s district, and they want new developments in their own districts, so, unfortunately for you, you have a real mess coming.)

    Today, Mt. Juliet is super prime for growth. Growth doesn’t bother me, what I am most concerned about is the number of Apartments that are being built here. Brentwood is kind of the model community of the Nashville Metropolitan area. A lot of people in the area will say a lot of bad things about Brentwood, but most don’t really know a lot about Brentwood. Go for a drive around Brentwood some time. You will find a lot of very nice homes situated on very large lots. You won’t find a lot of apartments there though. There is shopping and class “A” office space and lots of businesses there, but no Apartments, (Or relatively few). Mt. Juliet is an ideal setting for a second Brentwood type community, but unless we as a city take action, we will become a second hickory hollow instead. Go look at hickory hollow and tell me which you think our growth is reflecting more of, Brentwood or Hickory Hollow. Apartments are a necessary form of housing, and there is nothing wrong with apartments going up in the appropriate area, I just don’t think there is a lot of room inside the city Limits of Mt. Juliet for a lot of apartment buildings. They would be more well suited for areas outside the city limits, like inside the county, or at least that is my opinion.

    I don’t personally care whether or not one more house is built in Mt. Juliet, and in reality, I don’t care if one more business opens here or not. If businesses come I will use them, if they don’t, oh well. If people want to move here, I certainly can’t blame them and I welcome them, but if they don’t want to come here, oh well.

    However, “if” we are going to have growth, we need to decide “how” we will have growth. Are we going to pay property taxes and support the growth with infrastructure out of our own pockets, or are we going to have growth fuel infrastructure? Personally, I would rather have the people who move here pay the freight for the growth, after all, they are the ones fueling the growth. However, if I were a developer, I would probably rather you pay for the growth so that I could build even more developments.

    With Mt. Juliet being one of the few places left with positive growth numbers in the area, and this area being one of the few growth areas in the country, it stands to reason that this place is going to explode with growth. Thank God our numbers still look good, there are places in the country with double digit declines in home values. I believe I saw a place in Florida that is at -27% in relation to home values. An average home owner here would lose around $60,000 to $80,000 if that happened here.

    I am sorry that you are going through some difficulties, some of which don’t seem like they will go away anytime soon. Fortunately for me, the mountains of rock don’t bother me, the traffic doesn’t bother me, the new people moving in don’t bother me, none of it bothers me. I am enjoying the transformation of the city of Mt. Juliet. This is a vibrant city and I am really enjoying seeing it change. I like going to the movies, going to the book store, getting an ice cream cone, going out to dinner, having some choices of grocery stores (soon), and I am going to enjoy all of the new businesses as they come. I think this city has some tremendous potential, I only wish we were capitalizing on it more by attracting businesses like Cheese Cake Factory, Flemings, Ruths Chris, Mercedes Benz, Lexus, Macy, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Sharper Image, and building large custom homes (they are still being built, albeit not as many). I wish we were attracting upscale corporate headquarters rather than considering making what was supposed to be prime class “A” office space areas into warehouse areas. All that having been said, the growth could stop tomorrow, and as long as my property values continue to climb, I wouldn’t really care about that either. I would enjoy Mt. Juliet as it is, as much as I can, and go about my life.

    I don’t want a property tax, but if someone could convince me that there is wisdom in a property tax, I could be persuaded to change my mind, until then, I will gladly put up with the inconveniences that come with growth, if there is going to be growth, so that I don’t have to directly pay for the growth.

    There is at least one possible alternative to a property tax that would enable us to build infrastructure “before” developments are approved. If we as a city were to become very restrictive, even to the point of placing a moratorium on housing growth until the city can build roads, then wait until there is a budget for the development of roads, perhaps we could do what you are asking. I am not sure that would set well with a lot of people though. The people who have opened stores in Providence and elsewhere in the city are counting on the growth continuing. They “need” more roof-tops in Mt. Juliet. There are people who have speculated on the growth trajectory of this city, and to stifle growth would cost them significant portions of their investment. Still, there are others who have move to the city because it has a bright future as a very quaint, upscale, or semi-upscale community. In other words, they came here “because” of the growth. That is what they were looking for when they found Mt. Juliet. They certainly don’t want to slow growth, as this plan would certainly cause. However, that having been said, this plan is the more “responsible”, more “equitable” way to grow the city. This plan wouldn’t require you or I to pay anything for infrastructure other than shopping in Mt. Juliet rather than Rivergate, which to me really isn’t a cost at all. This plan also wouldn’t soak the new people who build new homes and move here either. Everyone pulls their own weight, nobody shoulders too much of the burden, the city still grows, it just grows slower. Those who speculated on the growth might not suffer too much if we did things this way, but some would still lose their shirts.

    Pushing the burden onto newcomers will only work while there are newcomers coming, in time, as the city builds out toward maximum capacity, and the growth wanes, the newcomers won’t be able to sustain the burden for all of the new infrastructure development costs, which currently comes from additional sales tax revenues and impact fees, and the city will have to find a way to finance itself, until that time comes, I am fine with not paying property taxes.

  4. Paul Deyo

    I have some familiarity with this project and voted against it for the reasons cited by Ms. Evans, a former neighbor. The downside of bringing sewer to the Nonaville Road corridor is that there will be continued pressure to develop the area with tiny lot homes. Developers claim that is the only way they can make money, but when they need larger lots to perk as along parts of Saundersville Road they still manage to survive.

    Nonaville Road is not equipped to handle the traffic already there. I have supported Mr. Justice’s efforts to annex the unbuilt portions of that corridor and opposed his efforts to bring in the built environment (Royal Oaks, etc). In the interim Nonaville Road is a county road and is not likely to be built to Mount Juliet standards any time soon.

    Thanks to efforts of the Mayor and Vice Mayor a per-lot contribution was asked of this developer which can only be used to fix that road. This is consistent with other subdivisions built in areas with a main corridor that won’t support the additional traffic generated . I do not know if Mr. Justice provided the needed third vote for this, I do know he actively supported the Carriage Trails project.

    As land becomes more scarce and less desirable the two choices are to enforce the existing rules and zoning and protect the taxpayers and stakeholders already living here or to relax the rules to allow unchecked development on more challenging pieces of property. I see the second choice as a major threat to the quality of life in Mount Juliet.

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