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650-home Forest Park denied by planning commission

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Members of the Hendersonville Regional Planning Commission voted Tuesday to deny a recommendation of Forest Park, a residential development off of Saundersville Road, to the city's Board of Mayor and Aldermen. TENA LEE

Members of the Hendersonville Regional Planning Commission denied approval on Tuesday for Forest Park, a 653-home residential development off of Saundersville Road.

Again citing infrastructure concerns - mainly roads and traffic - this is the third time this year the commission has withheld its approval for a rezoning that would allow more homes than the current zoning permits.

Although the planning commission does not have the final say on whether or not a development is approved, a recommendation to the city's Board of Mayor and Aldermen is almost crucial since many local leaders campaigned last November on platforms of controlled or "smart" growth.

Proposed by local developers TN HomeSites, Forest Park would have been the city's first and only subdivision to use Conservation Subdivision Design - an exception to zoning in the city's Land Use Plan that allows for a higher density of homes in an area designated for two-acre lots while also requiring more open space within a development.

Currently, the 260-acre property known as the Jenkins Farm is zoned Estate Residential, which requires lots to be at least one-acre in size. Under the current zoning around 200 homes could be built on the property. TN HomeSites' request to rezone the property from ER to Suburban Residential Planned Unit Development would allow for 653 single family homes and town homes and 89 acres of open space at a density of 2.5 homes per acre.

The proposal was deferred several times earlier this year by planning commission members, most recently in June when members said they wanted to wait for an engineering study of Saundersville Road to be completed.

Members reviewed last month the 177-page report by Alfred Benesch & Company which gives several scenarios for improving Saundersville Road that range in price from zero (meaning no improvements would be made) to $22 million.

In summarizing the project for members Tuesday, Planning Director Keith Free outlined several issues the developer would need to overcome including compatibility with neighboring subdivisions and homes on larger lots; one access point into the development; and the need to improve Saundersville Road.

Several planning commission members praised the overall design of the TN HomeSites project, as well as the developers' willingness to work with the city and contribute substantially to infrastructure improvements in that area.

"The problems exist now and it's getting worse," said the developer's representative, Mike Stanton. "We're a developer standing here tonight saying we're going to share in the burden."

Planning Commission member Darlene Stringfellow seemed to agree.

"If we're not going to do anything to the roads why would we not take the money?" said Stringfellow. "This would be money to help at least fix the roads .. and you're still going to have development on the other side."

Planning Commission member Charles Lea said that the city needs to decide how it's going to pay for infrastructure issues in the area - whether through impact fees for developers or through other revenue - before the planning commission considers future development.

"It is a city of Hendersonville issue and they need to put the house in order," he said.

"I'm afraid with the traffic issues... we would be placing an undue burden on the citizens in that community," Lea noted earlier during the meeting.

All commissioners but one, Lori Atchley, voted to recommend denial of the project. There is no word yet on if the developers plan to bring the project to the city's Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

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