PHOTO: Concept art by Mike Hathaway of 906 Studios shows the planned design of the Tennessee Children’s Home redevelopment project. / Courtesy photo
By ALEXANDER WILLIS
On Monday night, after months of deliberations through city and community meetings, the Spring Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the second and final reading of Ordinance 19-25, setting the stage for the development of a bustling downtown district on Main Street.
Proposed to be built on the current site of the Tennessee Children’s Home and consisting of 102 acres of commercial, restaurant, office, hotel and residential development, the project – now known as Kedron Square – has seen multiple revisions as talks continued between the developer and the community at large.
Among the latest revisions include a 65.2% increase in green space than what had been initially proposed, as well as a reduction in the residential portion of development by 10.3%.
The project includes some self-imposed restrictions to help attract desirable restaurants, such as the stipulation that restaurants can only have, at most, 15 franchises anywhere throughout the state of Tennessee – meaning, a McDonald’s or Burger King won’t be finding their way onto Kedron Square down the pipe. The development will also include an 8-acre park, historical markers to preserve the site’s history, and is projected to generate roughly $100 million for the city over a 20-year period.
Last minute modifications
Shortly after reaching the item during Monday’s meeting, Alderman Dan Allen proposed seven amendments to the project as it was presented. The first four were what Allen called “clean up” amendments, and were designed to only “plug up some holes” and clean up the language of the resolution.
The remaining three amendments were to remove drive thrus as a permitted use, remove retail liquor stores as a permitted use, and to only allow wineries and breweries with a special use – meaning, the developer would have to seek additional approval from the city beforehand.
Regarding the restriction on drive thrus, which in addition to restaurants would include bank ATMs, dry cleaners and other businesses with drive up features, the board voted unanimously to approve the amendment.
While some board members appeared torn on the topic, Aldermen Allen, Hazel Nieves and John Canepari all reflected on the recent denial of a drive thru for the Fainting Goat coffee shop, which saw its request denied on the grounds that the area wasn’t zoned to include drive thrus. Board members argued that it wouldn’t be fair to grant exceptions on drive thrus for one applicant over another.
The second major amendment, which would see the removal of liquor stores as a permitted use, wasn’t as unanimous among the board as the first major amendment.
“Just my opinion, having a retail liquor store with the way this development has been described and put together… personally, I just don’t feel like that fits in there,” Allen said. “We’ve got plenty of liquor stores around town.”
Allen also brought up the fact that the city only allows one liquor store per every 10,000 residents. With four liquor stores and just over 41,000 people, Spring Hill is a ways off before a fifth liquor store could even be approved, Allen argued in support of his amendment.
Ultimately, every member of the board except Alderman Vincent Fuqua voted to approve the amendment on restricting liquor stores in the development.
And lastly, Allen’s proposal to only allow breweries, wineries and other alcohol-serving businesses with special use saw even more deliberation from the board.
Allen explained that the amendment would, under no circumstances, actually restrict such businesses from being a part of the project, but rather, would require the developer to receive an extra layer of approval on a case by case basis, giving the city some additional control over which businesses are approved.
Ultimately, the amendment was approved by the board, with Alderman Fuqua, Matt Fitterer and Jeff Graves voting against it.
The final word
Despite the ambition of the project, it hasn’t been without its critics. Vice Mayor Amy Wurth has been consistent in her belief that until the city can adequately fund its fire and police forces, as well as provide an adequate transportation infrastructure, that such a large-scale project should not be entertained. Some residents have opposed the project as well, citing traffic and historical preservation concerns, with an online petition against the project collecting over 550 signatures.
“So I’ll take the opposing position – I will not be supporting this tonight,” Wurth said. “The reason being, I think Alderman Allen did a good job outlining the special uses that have been required versus permitted under this development, [as well as] the overall impact this will have on the city itself.”
Despite its critics, the project also has plenty of supporters, both from residents and city leaders alike. And ultimately, the board did vote in favor of approving the project’s preliminary plan with a vote of 6 – 2, with Aldermen Canepari, Fitterer, Nieves, Kevin Gavigan, Graves and Fuqua voting in favor of, and Aldermen Wurth and Allen voting against.
With a projected buildout period of ten years, residents may not see their bustling downtown come to fruition any time soon. But when it happens, those who remember will be able to point to this vote as when it all officially began.