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With five members absent, Metro Council delays two zoning-related votes until January

A second reading of a new zoning category for proposed medium to high density housing like the tiny home community Oakstone Capital already owns in Tracy City (left) and a rezoning request that would make way for a proposed Hilton Hotel to be built on a portion of the 290 acres tract owned by Brown-Forman (right) were both delayed until January in Monday night’s Metro Council meeting. (Images Provided)

LOCAL NEWS — Two items on the Metro Council’s December agenda would both open the door to more overnight visitors in Lynchburg and both were delayed until the January meeting. On Monday, only 10 of 15 Metro Council members were present at the regular December meeting. Gerald Burnett, Amy Cashion, Tommy Brown, Bradley Dye, and Houston Lindsey were all absent at roll call. No reasons were given at the meeting for any absence.

During open discussion of the addition of R3A to the Metro Ordinances, Metro Council member Gordon Millsaps made a motion to delay a vote on the item until the full council could be in attendance. John Taylor seconded his motion. At the voice vote, all members voted yes with the exception of Keith Moses.

Moments later, during open discussion of the rezoning of a little over 290 acres belong to Jack Daniel’s parent company Brown-Forman, the Council also decided to delay action after Jack Daniel Assistant General Manager Melvin Keebler announced that they are in discussions with Hilton to use “roughly one third” of that property to build a new hotel. Sunny Rae Moorehead made the motion to delay and Wayne Hawkins seconded that motion. At the voice vote, all members present voted yes with the exception of Gordon Millsaps and Keith Moses.

Public hearings for each item were held prior to the regular meeting.

At 6:10 p.m., no citizen or homeowner stood and spoke for or against the Brown-Forman rezoning.

At 6:15 p.m., six individuals stood to speak about the proposed addition of the R3A – Medium to High Density zoning category to the Metro Codes. The Metro Planning Commission developed the new residential classification in response to a proposed tiny home community called Retreat at Whiskey Creek proposed by the Oakstone Land and Capital Company located at 975 Main Street in Lynchburg in the footprint of the former Lynchburg Wilderness RV Park. It originally appeared on the Metro Council agenda in August of this year.

Jeff Norman spoke against adding R3A for over five minutes stating in part that overnight stays were the thing that “lights the fuse” on Lynchburg “becoming the next Gatlinburg.” Later he stated that Lynchburg did not currently possess the tourism infrastructure to support overnight stays. He ended his remarks by saying that “Developments are not for the locals; they are for the tourists.”

Next up, George Spencer spoke in favor of the new R3A zoning category. He challenged the idea that developers were attempting to turn Lynchburg into another Gatlinburg. He said that the tiny home community in Tracy City [owned by Oakstone] serves as a retreat away from the larger cities. “There isn’t a lot to do at Tracy City,” he said. He also stated that measured, selective growth is what Metro Moore County needs. “We need to grow by at least four percent each year to keep up,” he stated.

Oakstone President Chip Hayes then addressed the Council. Monday night was the fifth time he’d appeared before the council. He reminded the Council and those in attendance that he could move ahead with park model tiny homes under the property’s current zoning now if he wanted to. “I could have done it a year ago but I want to build site-built homes because they are a better product and it will generate more tax revenue for the county.” He also stated that since the tiny home community launched in Tracy City that there had been “no additional restaurants, no traffic jams, and no additional crime.”

Metro Mayor Bonnie Lewis then stated that Metro Moore needs additional spaces for larger tourism groups. “We get requests all the time for conferences, corporate meetings, etc. and we have to turn them away.” She also stated even though she’s heard lots of negative feedback about the tiny homes at Metro Council meetings, there were a greater number of citizens coming into her office voicing their support for the project.

Laurence Naumann, a familiar face at Council meetings and a vocal opponent of the tiny home community, argued that there was no building inspector or codes enforcers to enforce the new zoning if it passed.

“We’ve brought that item to the Metro Council several times and it failed each time,” responded Metro Planning Committee Chair Ryan Dickert.

The Council will revisit both second readings during their January meeting, which will take place on Monday, January 17 at the Lynchburg Legion Building. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned newspaper in Lynchburg and also the only woman-owned newspaper in Tennessee. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

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