Members of the Cason Trailhead community attended a Murfreesboro City Planning Commission meeting in opposition of a development project planned for their area Wednesday night in Murfreesboro City Hall.
The meeting covered three separate rezoning applications that went before the Commission, but the most talked about issue was the development project that looks to build over 300 townhomes of various sizes across 41 acres of grass and trees next to Cason Trailhead.
Neighbors that live behind and around this property attended the meeting, many wearing bright green t-shirts that read, “Save the Cason Lane Trailhead Greenway.”
After the first two rezoning applications were through, Planning Commission Chairman Bob Lamb opened up the meeting for project planner Clyde Rountree, property owner Brian Burns and President of Huddleston-Steele Engineering Bill Huddleston to give a presentation about their development project, Hidden River Estates. The presentation outlined to the commission what the project was and some of the finer details of the project.
The presentation also addressed some of the concerns brought up at the first community meeting back in December 2018. Huddleston talked about a traffic impact study, focusing on the Cason Trail and Stoney Meadow Drive, Cason Trail and River Rock Boulevard and Stoney Meadow Drive and River Rock Boulevard. Huddleston said the traffic impact study showed that in these areas, at peak traffic times, the traffic would still be able to operate at normal capacity with the development.
Rountree showed in his presentation that they were adding another access point to the development. However, this placed both access points as connecting from Cason Trail. This meant that the only two entrances to the development would come from the same road.
After their presentation, Lamb opened the floor for the public hearing portion of the meeting. Members of the community took full advantage of the opportunity and individuals stood up to speak to the commission and the audience for over an hour.
The concerns that the neighbors talked about ranged from population density concerns to floodwater safety. However, the two biggest issues by far were environmental impacts and traffic.
Tavner McKelley, a resident of the area and creator of a petition against the project, spoke first. She explained that most of the individuals that were planning on speaking were going to each stick to one topic of concern to keep from becoming redundant. McKelley chose the environmental impact that removing this green space would cause.
“I am a major animal lover and have been ever since I was little, so my very first thought about this development was the wildlife that would be displaced when the bulldozers start plowing through this space that’s been their home forever,” McKelley said.
During her talk, McKelley presented the city planning commission with the petition that had over 4,000 signatures and nearly 200 comments.
After McKelley, many community members voiced their concerns about the already problematic traffic situation in the Cason Lane area.
“That traffic artery (Cason Lane) is clogged by traffic plaque as well as coronary arteries are clogged by cholesterol. When I first arrived here 19 years ago, Cason Lane was a bucolic byway devoid of traffic. Not so anymore,” said resident Robert Armstrong.
One resident felt that the developers weren’t taking their concerns seriously enough.
“He (Burns) doesn’t care because he won’t drive these streets every day, his kids won’t be in the overcrowded classrooms, he won’t miss the trees, the wildlife or the peace that the greenway provides,” said resident Mariah Phillips
Over thirty individuals spoke at the public hearing, including teachers, retirees, a high school student and neighbors from all around the Cason Trailhead area.
After the public hearing portion of the meeting, the commission called back Huddleston to address the commission’s concerns about the project. The commission cited their main concerns as the number of access points to the new development and the lacking amount of finished details in the plan.
“I have been and continue to struggle with the access to the site,” said Planning Commission member Jennifer Garland. “There’s the second entrance, which again, looks like it has just recently been added … It doesn’t address my concerns with the access points to the property.”
At the end of the night, the commission moved to defer the decision until more entrances were added to the plans of the development and more details were ready. It was a unanimous decision by the commission.
After the meeting, Rountree, Huddleston, Burns and the Planning Commission stayed to talk to citizens about their questions and concerns.
“We appreciate (the Cason Trailhead community) coming and telling us some things we can work on,” Burns said after the meeting. “We still love the project. We still plan on going full fledge with it … We’ll go through the issues (the planning commission) want us to go through and go from there.”
Commission member Eddie Smotherman said that while he understands the concerns with the development, it is unlikely that development can be fully stopped with this project since the property has already been purchased.
“I’m absolutely convinced that the citizens are on point as to the concerns that we should have about this property in this development. At the same time, I also understand the property rights of the person who owns the property and their potential of developing it,” said Smotherman.
“It would be nice if it would be developed in a much more calmer way,” said resident Corey Colley, “Maybe instead of 380 units, how about 100? Give us a buffer of 200 feet of trees. I’m fine with that … The greenway can have the greenway. I get my part of the property and the developer, he makes money.”
The Planning Commission will meet again to discuss the rezoning application in an upcoming meeting.
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