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Several concerned citizens of Tullahoma attended the city’s planning commission meeting on Monday night to vocalize their concerns to a request for the commission to approve a planned unit development at 1008 West Lincoln. Owner and applicant of said request, Joe Denby, had his legal representatives William Lockhart and Eric Burch from The Law Offices of Burch and Lockhart speak on his behalf, addressing all of the questions and concerns voiced.

Several concerned citizens of Tullahoma attended the city’s planning commission meeting on Monday night to vocalize their concerns to a request for the commission to approve a planned unit development at 1008 West Lincoln Street.

The project requested is a plan to build a 13 townhouse-style apartment development on 3.28 acres of undeveloped land. Joe Denby, the owner and applicant of the request, was present with his legal representatives William Lockhart and Eric Burch from The Law Offices of Burch and Lockhart and the engineer of the project, Kenny Sadler.

According to the staff report by Planning and Codes Director Lee Lawson, the development was first presented to the commission on Sept. 16. At that time, the commission postponed the vote until last Monday’s meeting directing the staff to send notification of the planned development to the adjacent property owners and also for Denby to submit an open space plan that included the intended use and maintenance of the open space that is located on the rear portion of the lot. Denby and his team failed to provide the requested written documentation at Monday’s meeting. Lawson recommended that the vote be postponed again due to Denby’s failure.

Commissioner Crabtree opened the floor to a public hearing, with a couple of citizens approaching the podium to voice their concerns about the plan.

“I have lived in that area my entire life, and I will say that there is a lot of flooding on that land. I remember as a kid catching frogs and the occasional snake in those very large puddles that accumulate on the land after rainfall,”

Charles Dennis, a resident on Stone Boulevard, near the land in question, said. “The largest concern of mine is that the townhomes are located near West Lincoln, which is a racetrack from Cedar Lane into the city limits. The road is congested at 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. It will cause a lot of traffic in an already congested area.”

“My house is at the back parcel of that open space, said Jaclyn Parks, a resident of Ragan Street. “If the land is developed in any way, are we going to handle the already existing flooding issues at that property?”

“This is a project that we need here. We need good units that people can live in that aren’t low-income housing,” Alderman Daniel Berry said, approaching the podium. “My question is ‘are there any ordinances that this does not meet?’ I feel like we are discussing preferences now. The rest of this would be passed up to the Board of Mayor and Alderman. If there is not an ordinance that it is breaking, I would hate to see this held up any longer.”

Denby’s representatives replied stating that there were no plans for the open land, and that it is privately owned. Therefore, the city would not have to maintain the land and Denby would be responsible. “There were no specifics for what needed to done, just to address what the open space would be. Our answer to that is going to be open space,” Lockhart said. “It is my understanding that we have met all the requirements. I would ask that it go forward today since there were no specifics brought to our attention.”

“These suggestions are point of personal preference, not a requirement. However, it is a requirement that even if you’re planning on leaving the open land as it is right now, that you put it in writing for the Planning Commission,” Crabtree said. “It is going to be difficult for us to send a favorable or unfavorable recommendation to the Board of Mayor and Alderman.”

Right before the vote, Alderman Blackwell asked if the writing of the plan in the meeting’s minutes would suffice as “putting it in writing” and Crabtree replied “no.” At this point, a citizen stood up and said unorderly “If you want the people to give you something, you have to tell them what you want” to Crabtree. Blackwell continued, questioning if delaying the vote was inappropriate and if there was a possibility of legal action being taken against the board because of it, to which other members of the board replied was very unlikely. The vote to postpone until next month’s meeting passed 3-2, with Comer and Blackwell opposed.

The Tullahoma Board of Mayor and Alderman must approve a development agreement and open space easement dedication, and both need to be recorded in the County Register of Deeds Office. All meetings of The Planning Commission are available in full on YouTube from Channel 6, the Link.

Katelyn Lawson may be reached at klawson@tullahomanews.com.