“Someone had a vision a long way back . . .”

So said Mt. Juliet City Manager Randy Robertson at the ribbon cutting for the completed improvements to the I-40 / Mt. Juliet Road interchange, according to a story on the front page of today’s Lebanon Democrat.

That someone would be Mayor Kevin Mack (2000-2004), who signed the contract with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) in February of 2004 (no doubt after some significant period of planning and negotiation with TDOT).

Here’s a copy of the contract, for those who want to see who started the projects that Mayor Elam now gets to cut the ribbons for. Just cause you woke up on third base doesn’t mean you hit a triple.

– Publius

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5 responses to ““Someone had a vision a long way back . . .”

  1. Butch Huber

    Well done, Kevin. Someone please tell me what this commission has put in the pipeline the way that Kevin, Rob and Bobby put in the pipeline? Most people don’t have a clue what we lost…but in about two or three years they will start figuring it out as they see this city go through a lull. If we don’t get two new people on this commission it will be even worse. Randy Robertson may be able to figure out how to spruce up city hall, but so far it doesn’t seem to me like he knows much about moving the city forward.

  2. Bobby Franklin

    Thank you for the kind words Butch. There were many people that worked as a team to build the road projects you see. It was a great team that turned heads throughout the state. I was just a small part of that team.

    The vision came from Kevin Mack. He had the guts to actually verbalize what Mt. Juliet should be – an edge city. He was laughed at. Ridiculed. Bradshaw and Justice opposed the concept altogether. The Lebanon Democrat sneered at the notion of Mt. Juliet becoming Brentwood or Franklin. It was a big joke in Lebanon in 2001.

    A vision can die if not pursued but Mack developed a plan. He wanted to market Mt. Juliet to rest of the country and did it. It was not an easy decision choosing the first road project. We sought (and took) advice from the top people in the road construction industry and the community. People will never fully understand how the widening of Mt. Juliet Rd. really started everything rolling.

    I mentioned that road building is a team effort. Rob Shearer built that team. It was comprised of people who loved Mt. Juliet and wanted to see progress. Not everyone on the team worked at the city. The support of Mae Beavers and Susan Lynn was vital. Mae could get us in front of the TDOT Commissioner with only hours notice. Mike Flatt of Gresham Smith Partners was instrumental in preparing the conceptual drawings for countless presentations. Jeanne Stevens, the MPO Director, spent much time assisting me with the appropriation planning process. Congressman Jim Cooper and his Chief of Staff Greg Hinote spent so much time in Mt. Juliet I had to find them office space.

    Kevin was the constant sparkplug and taskmaster. His first act as Mayor was to appoint two committees. One to brainstorm and make recommendations on short-term traffic improvements (things that could be implemented in less than one year). The second was to make recommendations on long-term traffic improvements. He appointed himself to both committees. He also appointed commissioners Bradshaw and Justice, and both democrats and republicans. What mattered to Kevin was getting people who had knowledge, good ideas, and who would seek the best solutions for Mt. Juliet.

    Some of those short-term improvements made the northern half of Mt. Juliet Road at least bearable. And boy are we lucky today that the commission installed a turn lane at the intersection of Woodridge & Mt. Juliet.

    When the committees recommended the widening of Mt. Juliet Road, for practical, strategic, and economic reasons, Kevin championed their recommendation and led the city commission in approving it. At the time he was ridiculed in the press and opposed by the Chamber of Commerce.

    Kevin went to work securing TDOT approval and funding. He was tireless in contacting and lobbying state and federal officials. At one point, we held an impromptu prayer meeting in the lobby of the TDOT building before going upstairs to an important meeting.

    Mt. Juliet Road got widened because of Kevin Mack. Without him it would not have happened. And without a widened Mt. Juliet Road, we would never have attracted serious commercial development. Holly Sears, then Economic Development Director for Wilson County told us that she had one developer in her car touring Wilson Co. and when they got to Mt. Juliet, he told her to turn around. He told her to call him when they widened Mt. Juliet Road, but until that happened he wasn’t interested. Most other companies weren’t either.

    Here are the projects that were started while Kevin Mack was Mayor:

    Widening of Mt. Juliet Road.
    Widening Old Lebanon Dirt Rd.
    Curd Rd. realignment.
    Curd Rd East Division Connector.
    Curd Rd Benders Ferry Connector.
    Beckwith Road Interchange.
    Eastern Connector
    West Division Improvement
    Greenhill Rd intersection upgrade
    Mt. Juliet Interchange improvements
    Central Pike Interchange engineering
    Adams Lane improvement
    Belinda City Parkway realignment and improvement
    Providence Parkway Construction
    High School Entrance improvement
    Bobby Hamilton Pkwy.

    “The whole world steps aside for the man who knows where he is going.”

  3. Antony

    Bravo Mr. Franklin!

  4. Butch Huber

    Again, somebody tell me what road projects this commission has put in the pipeline? What is the number one issue in Mt. Juliet? Roads? Who brought us roads? Kevin, right? Who is likely to bring us more roads? Kevin. He already knows how to do it!

    There is a big difference between a man who has done something and a man who thinks he can.

  5. Bobby Franklin

    The current Mt. Juliet Land Use Plan under consideration is a U-turn from the previous eight years of Planning and City Commission policy. If adopted, it would set Mt. Juliet on a course toward becoming Antioch. The policy of the previous 8 years had been to pursue a Brentwood / Franklin model. The policy of the previous eight years was responsible for doubling the average selling price of residential homes in Mt. Juliet. The new, proposed policy is likely to lower property values.

    Most people have forgotten that in 2000 the average residential sale price in Mt. Juliet was about 5000 dollars less than in Antioch. That’s right, hard to believe isn’t it? In fact there were many developers and realtors in Mt. Juliet back in 2001 quite content with becoming Antioch.

    Kevin Mack had a vision back then to become an “edge city” more like Brentwood and Franklin instead. Mack and Hagerty worked to raise building standards and lower density with a Land Use Plan update. Eighty percent of land became Low-Density Residential requiring a minimum of 40,000 square foot lots. A developer had to build a Planned Unit Development to have smaller lots – and that is what happened.

    The advantage to the city in this was the ability to force more infrastructure costs to the developer in exchange for smaller lots. The developer had to build amenities too. Homeowner Associations were required to pay for recurring expenses and maintenance. This shifted the burden away from the existing Mt. Juliet taxpayer to the people who were moving in. Developers incurred more costs but built at higher value and sold for higher prices. This reduced the taxpayer subsidy of growth while increasing existing property values.

    The formula worked so well Mt. Juliet became the hottest residential market in Middle Tennessee. Property values soared. The new proposed Land Use Plan will throw all of the accomplishments of the past eight years away.

    The new Moderate Density Land Use area being considered encompasses about eighty percent of the land area here. It almost completely replaces the Low Density area in the present Land Use Plan. Here is what can be built in the new “Moderate Density”:

    “Maximum Permitted Density Range – 2.18 to 4.36 units per acre, Single-family houses, attached homes, and duplexes 6,000 SF- base zone – 4,000 SF if Conservation Development is used.”

    I can assure you that no developer will be pursuing a Planned Unit Development approval in the Moderate Density Area. That means the city will not be able to shift the burden of infrastructure maintenance, or amenity costs to the developer. The developer will be able to build smaller, less expensive housing that can be quickly built and sold. The existing Mt. Juliet resident will pick up more expense to support housing stock that will ultimately lower existing home values. But don’t take my word for it – the new plan comes right out and says we need to lower home values in Mt. Juliet – in order to make housing more affordable! This is from the plan summary:

    “This update also underscores a trend with respect to the availability of reasonably affordable housing and housing choice. The pattern of new development not only in Mt. Juliet but elsewhere is for land and construction costs to continue to escalate creating a growing trend for smaller lots and more expensive homes. This phenomenon increasingly creates an economic climate that limits access into the local housing market and fosters an environment whereby “you can work here but you can’t live here.” This situation requires careful attention and serious efforts to ensure a viable, diverse and reasonably affordable housing stock for the community.”

    I, for one, think this is a horrible idea. It represents a departure from the winning model that made this city such a successful real estate market from 2002 through 2007.

    No one I talk to wants the city to become Antioch anymore. Why does city staff?

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