Metro Council approves TRANs, distillery rezoning, and land use exception

Monday night served as the final meeting for (from left to right) outgoing County Court Clerk Nancy Hatfield, five Metro Council members, Wayne Hawkins, Gordon Millsaps, Denning Harder, Keith Moses, and Meghan Bailey, as well as outgoing Metro Mayor Bonnie Lewis. Together, they represent over 60 years of institutional knowledge for the county. (Lynchburg Times Photo)

LYNCHBURG, Tenn. — Monday night’s Metro Council meeting stands as one of the the shortest in recent memory. The meeting kicked off at 6:30 p.m. and the motion to adjourn came around 6:45 p.m.

It served as the last for five outgoing Metro Council members who chose not to run for re-election: the second district’s Wayne Hawkins (8 years) and Meghan Bailey (4 years), the third district’s Gordon Millsaps (12 years) and Keith Moses (four years), as well as the fifth district’s Denning Harder (8 years). Harder also served a Metro Council chair person.

Nancy Hatfield also attended her last official meeting as County Court Clerk Nancy Hatfield, who served in office 24 years before deciding to retire in 2022. She’s attended over 300 Metro Council meetings during her six terms in office.

It was also the final meeting for outgoing Metro Mayor Bonnie Lewis, who did not seek re-election.

Budget Amendments and TRANs approval

The Council approved a resolution authorizing Metro to “borrow” $350,000 to meet appropriation for the current fiscal year. Metro executes a Tax and Revenue Anticipation Note (TRANs) each fall. It’s a cash flow adjustment in which Metro borrows from it’s own funds rather that seek funds from a private investor. It’s necessary because the Metro Budget front-loads funding for public education, insurance, software upgrades, and other line items that come due early in the fiscal year. Property tax bills go out in October and aren’t due until February 2023.

“On average, it costs about $400,000 a month to run Metro Moore County,” Mayor Lewis explained to The Times after the meeting. “July kills us with insurance, memberships, and software invoice due right off the bat. We spent around $600,000 in July 2022 and took in around $140,000.”

According to Mayor Lewis, the TRANs is the equivalent of transferring money from Metro’s “savings” account or surplus into the General Fund. The TRANs is simply the paperwork required by the Tennessee Comptroller office. As of the June 30, Metro accounts reflected a $1,193,777 million fund balance otherwise known as a surplus.

“We’ve done this for the past several years,” Mayor Lewis explained. “If we don’t need the funds, we won’t use it.”

The resolution passed by a 13-2 vote with Keith Moses and Peggy Sue Blackburn voting against.

Jack Daniel’s rezoning approval

The Council also passed a rezoning request from Jack Daniel Distillery to rezone 43.3 acres on the back side of the distillery campus from agricultural to industrial in anticipation of expanding their production line. The property sits off Goodbranch Road and is surrounded on three sides by other Jack Daniel’s property. During the meeting, Jack Daniel’s Donna Willis informed the Council that the distillery recently discovered that one of the distillery’s boilers and a waste water processors “spills over that property line” during a recent re-survey of the land.

The rezoning passed unanimously. It requires three separate votes from the Council and there will be a public hearing prior to the September 19 meeting at 6:25 p.m.

Distillery by-products processing special land use exception approval

The Council also approved the third reading of a resolution adding a land use exception to the Metro Zoning Ordinances allowing a “distillery by-products processing facility” on land zoned A1 (agricultural). It’s a move the Metro Planning Commission originally recommended to the Metro Council during their June meeting. In the July meeting, the Council approved the second but not the third required vote on the land use exception.

The exception will be the first step in building an anaerobic digester on land adjacent to the distillery. It’s based on a similar exception recently granted to Silicon Ranch for a solar farm project in Moore County. During the July meeting, Mayor Lewis explained that the Metro Planning Commission chose the agricultural exception as opposed to an industrial rezoning to insure that if the AD Plant were to ever be decommissioned, an industrial project could not take its place.

The third reading passed by a 8-7 margin with Meghan Bailey, Keith Moses, Sunny Rae Moorehead, Shane Taylor, Denning Harder, Jimmy Hammond, and Bradley Dye voting against and John Taylor, Houston Lindsey, Arvis Bobo, Amy Cashion, Gerald Burnett, Peggy Sue Blackburn, Wayne Hawkins, and Gordon Millsaps voting yes.

The approval paves the way for Tuesday afternoon’s Board of Zoning Appeal meeting in which 3 Rivers Energy Partners – the company looking to partner with the Jack Daniel Distillery to build an anaerobic digester plant – will appear to request the first use of the special land exception.

On May 26, Jack Daniel’s management hosted a public forum to address the continuation of the the distillery’s “slop” program and how the anaerobic digester played a part. {To read our full coverage of that meeting, click here.} The proposed facility will be located on property adjacent to the distillery.

The Board of Zoning Appeals Board will meet at 5:30p.m. on Tuesday at the Moore County Building.

The Metro Council will meet with five new council members during the next meeting, which takes place on September 19. New members include Robert Bracewell and Douglas Carson II from the second district, Marty Cashion and Dexter Golden from the third district, and Greg Guinn from the fifth district. •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently-owned, community newspaper located in Lynchburg, Tennessee the home of The Jack Daniel Distillery. We focus on public service, non-partisan, rural journalism. We cover the Metro Moore County government, local tourism, Moore County schools, high school sports, Motlow State Community College, as well as whiskey industry news and regional and state stories that affect our readers.}