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Forest Park denied

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Hamilton Frost

Neither a developer's offer to help fund improvements to Saundersville Road, nor the threat that a less desirable project could be built on the 260-acre Jenkins farm deterred city leaders Tuesday from refusing to rezone the property.

Local developers TNHomeSites proposed rezoning the land off of Saundersville Road north of the Country Hills subdivision from Estate Residential to Suburban Residential Planned Unit Development to allow for the construction of 653 homes and townhomes on the site. The property's current zoning allows around 200 homes and requires lots to be at least one acre in size.

First proposed to city planners in April, the project was deferred several times by Hendersonville Regional Planning Commission members who said they wanted to wait for an engineering study of Saundersville Road to be completed.

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

Despite an offer to contribute significantly to make off-site improvements to Saundersville Road, planning commission members voted on Sept. 5 to deny a recommendation of the project to the city's Board of Mayor and Aldermen. The city's General Committee declined to make a recommendation.

BOMA members heard from several citizens on Tuesday who were both for and against the project.

"What we want as we grow is responsible growth," said Saundersville Road resident Steven Rose. "(That many) homes is irresponsible growth. We need to solve the problems here first."

Saundersville Station resident Steve Searles said he had first opposed the project, but changed his mind after learning how much the developer was willing to pay for road improvements to the area.

A few residents argued that growth was inevitable to the area that includes several subdivisions along Saundersville Road, and that the new homes would generate needed tax revenue for city services and county schools. Others said the development would put a strain on the city's roadways and fire and police departments.

Danny Bryan, a relative of one of the Jenkins farm owners, said that others were interested in the property, including Tyson Farms.

Former Public Works Director Jim Harrison, a local engineer representing the project, cited the Benesch study as well as a traffic study commissioned by TNHomeSites in March.

Harrison told board members TNHomeSites was willing to pay $2,100 per lot to fund road improvements - something that other subdivisions in the area have not done.

Harrison also said that the amount of traffic now and in the future on Saundersville Road is still less than that on other roads in the city like Sanders Ferry, Indian Lake and New Shackle Island.

TNHomeSites representative Mike Stanton said that Forest Park would be a high-class, first-class development offering several pocket parks and eight different home styles. Thirty percent of the homes would be marketed to empty nesters, he added.

One of the concerns of the planning department and planning commission, he noted was the fact that the subdivision only had one entrance. Other subdivisions in the area like Wynbrook and Stone Crest have just one entrance, he noted, adding Forest Park's would be wider than most and have two lanes in and two lanes out.

Several aldermen said they liked the project overall, but said the majority of the residents they've heard from are against the project.

"It's is a little dense for me," said Ward 5 Alderman Hamilton Frost. "It's a good project but it's on the wrong road. I still fall back to the folks who've said they don't want it. The majority have said they don't want it."

In the end, the board voted 8-3-1 against the rezoning.

Voting for the project were Ward 2 aldermen Scott Sprouse and Pat Campbell and Matt Stamper of Ward 6. Peg Petrelli, who is also the board's representative on the planning commission, abstained.

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