The Mt. Juliet Commission deferred action for at least two weeks on a rezoning request for two properties on N. Mt. Juliet Road to give both sides the opportunity to find a resolution to the issue.
Agilitas Property Development, Inc., made the request on behalf of David Gnewikow and Michael Davis to rezone their respective properties at 808 and 830 N. Mt. Juliet Rd. across from West Wilson Middle School The one-time houses that had been converted into business offices were destroyed in the March tornado. The owners asked for the properties to be rezoned to commercial town center from office professional services.
“Like so many people in this community, business owners like myself are dying for some type of return to normalcy. Where I work now, we are in 900 square feet versus 1,800 square feet before and I’m paying double the rent,” said Gnewikow, who said he explored the possibility of simply rebuilding an office after the tornado, but discovered his insurance covered a 1972 ranch house.
“That’s my fault not yours, but you guys understand the cost of building. I can’t rebuild a medical office for $150,000,” he said. “So, if I go back alone and I attempt to build on 808 North Mt. Juliet Road by myself, I’m going to be in debt for a long, long time on a piece of property that was basically almost paid for.”
Gnewikow said the situation made him look for a possible solution with Davis by rezoning the properties for more options in their tenant spaces. The properties’ current zoning does not allow restaurants and retail.
There were 13 other businesses along that stretch of N. Mt. Juliet Road that had tornado damage and would be affected by the zoning decision.
According to Mt. Juliet zoning code, the commercial town center zoning is intended to “provide for a wide range of commercial uses concerned with retail trade and consumer services; amusement and entertainment establishments; eating and drinking places; financial institutions and offices.”
Some residents opposed the rezoning due to fears of additional traffic, noise pollution and increased crime in the area. Some even pointed to potential negative impact on education at West Wilson Middle School, according to commissioners.
Nearby resident Neal Zabkar addressed the commission and said most Clearview Estates residents were not in favor of the rezoning request.
“We’re more in favor of the single buildings with the individual businesses in there,” he said. “We’d like to keep the zoning the same and not changed.”
Jessica Gore, principal at Para Design, said the fact Davis and Gnewikow tapped Agilitas signified their dedication to a quality development. Gore said the company was responsible for the Town Center Plaza, which houses the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce, Children’s Clinic East, Keller Williams and some restaurants.
“Our clients, too, had their livelihoods greatly affected when their businesses were destroyed. While we understand and are certainly sympathetic to residents’ fears of what is to come, we cannot argue against unsubstantiated fears that are sometimes fueled by social media platforms,” Gore said.
After District 3 Commissioner Scott Hefner indicated he would vote against the rezoning, District 4 Commissioner Jennifer Milele indicated she would also have trouble supporting the rezoning.
“We also have to consider what kind of precedent we would be setting by rezoning if and when other property owners make the same request,” Milele said.
Mt. Juliet Planning Director Jennifer Hamblen said she believed a planned overlay could possibly be a solution.
“I think that would be a great way to move forward and make both the residents, you guys and the applicant comfortable moving forward,” she said.
The commissioners deferred action until the Jan. 25 meeting.
The commissioners also approved traffic signals for the Lebanon Road-S. Greenhill Road and N. Mt. Juliet Road-Curd Road intersections.