Photo by Connor Burnard / MTSU Sidelines
The Murfreesboro City Council, the members of which can be found here, held a meeting on Wednesday at the council chambers in City Hall in which 10 public hearings were held. Nine of the hearings involved annexations and proposed zonings or rezonings of specific lots around the city, with the final hearing about the proposed 2018-19 city budget. The full agenda for the meeting can be found here.
The meeting began with recognition of three Water Resources Department workers at the Stones River Water Treatment plant for the S.T.A.R.S. award, a city award that stands for “Succeed Through Attitudes Reflecting Service Excellence.” The three employees were commended for their efforts in preventing an accidental chemical spill in the plant from entering the water system and assisting the chemical delivery driver in safely decontaminating his person and possessions.
The council then proceeded to unanimously approve the renewal of Certificates of Compliance for Wine in Retail Stores for two Walmarts and six Krogers in the city.
Following this, the council got to work on the public hearings, which included proposed zoning amendments of lots on Osborne Lane, Conhocken Court, Veterans Parkway and Old Fort Parkway. The amendments proposed annexations and incorporations of areas on Indian Park Drive and Armstrong Valley Road, an amendment to increase required public parking at city businesses and an amendment to conditions of a planned commercial development on South Rutherford Boulevard.
All of the zoning amendment proposals in the public hearings were passed unanimously. Many of the proposals were backed by presentations by their applicants as well as explanations by Assistant Planning Director Matthew Blomeley and Principal Planner Margaret Ann Green. Many of the proposals had also been brought to the public in community hearings held by the Planning Commission, which had recommended some of them for approval to the council. As public hearings, the council opened the floor to any citizens who may wish to speak for or against any of the subjects of each proposal after they are proposed, which only happened one time during the meeting.
Murfreesboro resident Robert Barkley rose to address the council during the discussion of the amendment of conditions at a planned commercial development at 2615 South Rutherford Blvd, the location of a storage facility. The discussion was over a proposed 160-foot cell tower to be built at the site by Eco-Site, a wireless infrastructure company. After Councilman Rick Lalance expressed concerns over the tower’s height and proximity to a residential neighborhood and joked about camouflaging the tower as a palm tree, Barkley suggested that something different be done since the tower was “ugly” and close to houses. Residents were concerned with the proximity of the towers to homes, due to not only the appearance but the radiation emissions. There is a concern that EMF Protection clothing and bed canopies will be needed to protect against any harmful radiation being released. Another issue that people might have with a cell tower is what happens if it is built on their land? Luckily there are things in place like a cell tower lease buyout to help make sure that you are getting a fair price.
However, Assistant City Attorney David Ives told the council that unless there was concrete reasoning to deny the cell tower, the city would have to comply with federal communications regulations in allowing the company to build the tower there. Councilman Eddie Smotherman also added that the towers generally did not appear to be as disruptive to neighborhoods as they might seem.
“As far as neighbors, (cell towers) are not intrusive neighbors,” Smotherman said. “They haven’t had a single party yet.”
After the public hearings on proposed zoning, condition and annexation amendments, the council held a public hearing to consider the proposed 2018-19 city budget. Although no citizens addressed the council, Councilman Bill Shacklett requested that the budget be amended to increase funding to the Homeless Alliance of Rutherford County from $15,000 by $5,000 in order to meet the Alliance’s full request for $20,000.
Smotherman asked that the council consider increasing pay for retirees by approximately one percent.
Mayor Shane McFarland also requested that the budget be amended to restore $100,000 to school budgets for legal fees and to require expenditures of $10 million or more to be brought to the council first for review and approval.
Following the budget approval, the council heard and unanimously approved proposed resolutions regarding appropriations ordinances. The items in the resolutions included lowering the Certified Tax Rate to $0.9494, the budgets of the Water Resources Department and the Stormwater Utility Management Fund, the provision of post-employment benefits for retirees, the scheduling of eight public hearings on July 19 and the design, construction contract and city incurment of construction costs for a new elementary school at the corner of Saint Andrews Drive and Veterans Parkway.
The final consideration of the night involved recommendations from Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Nate Williams to approve implementation of mountain bike trails at Barfield Crescent Park. This consideration met with a significant amount of discussion and was the only proposition heard at the meeting that was not unanimously approved. Multiple council members expressed their experience with many members of the public contacting them with both positive and negative opinions on the bike trails. The idea for the trails was first brought up in Parks and Recreation in 2016.
Shacklett, Lalance and Smotherman expressed reservations about the impact of the bike trails, whether on the environment, the enjoyment of other park guests or the city budget, respectively. However, all three councilmen concluded that the bike trails would be an overall benefit to the city.
The sole dissenting “nay” vote of the night came from Councilman Kirt Wade, who, entering proposal discussions for the first time in the meeting, agreed that the bike trails would be an added asset to the city. However, he stated that the timing was poor with regard to the budget.
“I can’t see spending $500,000 when we’re telling everyone else to cut back,” Wade said. “For that reason, I’ll be voting no.”
Ultimately, all proposals heard at the meeting were approved by the council. City council meetings and public hearings are open to residents and are held in the city council chambers on the first floor of City Hall at 111 West Vine St.
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