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Some friendly competition

A strip mall that’s home to some of Hendersonville’s most popular local restaurants was the unexpected scene of a massive barbecue festival on Saturday.

The first The Meat Sweats Barbecue Open attracted thousands of residents to the 393 East Main Street shopping area where around 30 novice and advanced barbecuing teams competed for bragging rights and plaques.

The Meat Sweats owner Martin Tudon organized the event that was advertised largely by word of mouth and through Tudon’s social media sites. The event included about a dozen vendors, four live bands, an Easter egg hunt for kids, a beer garden hosted by Half Batch Brewing for adults, and thousands of residents eager to enjoy good barbecue and springlike temperatures.

Tudon, who opened his own barbecue restaurant in November of 2018 after working in the corporate world for 30 years, said he hopes to make the event an annual one. Event sponsors included HomeVantage mortgage, Salt MedSpa, Cornerstone Financial and Sunbelt Rentals in Gallatin.

“We wanted to have a community event and invite our customers and other vendors and restaurants,” he said. “I think it turned out really great. All of the vendors said they did really well.”

Vendors included A.J. Creations, Cake Joy, D’s B’s homemade lemonade, Boomerangs Australian Coffee, Giordano’s Italian Street Food, and Half Batch Brewing Company.

Half Batch owner Nate Newton said the festival drew a larger crowd than expected but he didn’t mind.

“We’re always glad to participate in local events and festivals,” said Newton.

The event highlighted a growing area on the city’s west side.

Newton, who opened the city’s first tap room in September of 2017, recently announced his business is expanding. Half Batch is building a new 10,000-sqaure-feet building next to the current one on the other side of Bluegrass Bar and Grill, he said.

The new building will have a larger tap room and expanded outdoor seating area. Newton said he hopes to have his new location open by next spring.

The Meat Sweats will move into the Half Batch location while a new Italian concept, Giordano’s will open into the barbecue restaurant, Tudon said.

In the meantime, Tudon hopes to continue drawing residents to the area with fun events like Saturday’s.

Live music is planned for Friday evenings during the summer, he said.

Tudon said he’s also planning a back-to-school event with Eat Hendersonville founder Mauricio Sanchez for some time in late summer.

“Our heart beat is the community,” said Tudon. “I want to help other small mom and pop, locally-owned businesses like ours. Even if they’re a competitor, it doesn’t matter. We just want to help other businesses do well.”

Residents asked to weigh in on future park amenities

The Hendersonville Parks Department is asking the public to complete a survey on their opinion of City parks and recreation by April 17. The survey will help the department develop a 10-year master plan.

The plan is being put together by Kimley & Horn, who hosted a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis for the Parks Board and Board of Mayor and Aldermen last week. The firm is also working on the City’s ADA transition plan.

The plan will let Hendersonville apply for a Local Parks and Recreation Fund grant (up to $500,000) and a Recreational Trails Program grant (up to $200,000) from the state of Tennessee. The plan, which costs $79,000, will be finalized in July to allow the City to apply for the grants in August.

“There has not been a Parks master plan of this caliber done in a very long time,” said Andy Gilley, parks director. “It’s something that has been tried to be done in the past, and it just was never funded, and we were really grateful this time that the Board of Mayor and Aldermen saw the need and had enough forethought to fund it.”

Survey participation

The City needs participation in the survey because projects for the grant have to be reflected in a master plan as one of the priorities the community feels is needed, said Gilley.

Kimley & Horn told Gilley they would be doing good to get 500 survey responses. Gilley said he laughed and told them the City would get 1,000 responses.

As of April 5, there are over 1,500 survey responses, and Gilley’s goal is to get to 2,000 responses by the time the survey closes April 17.

Gilley said that he thinks there are so many responses because of strong partnerships with civic groups that are engaged in the community.

“It’s such a huge part of our community that people are proud of and they want to see us get the best we can get,” he said.

While Gilley has not seen any survey responses, he listed some things he thought people might like to see such as turf fields, better lighting, more facilities, swimming pools and amphitheaters.

“We’re getting packed out,” he said. “Our leagues are growing.”

Hendersonville only has one soccer complex for two soccer leagues that have close to 2000 kids total. Flag football participation has almost tripled in the past three years, and the City only has one football field, Gilley said.

“This is the public’s chance to give a lot of good input on what they expect so I hope everyone will take advantage of it,” he said.

The survey is available on the City website.

City mulls LED street lighting conversion

Replacing the city’s 2,400 street lights with Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights could save the city close to $180,000 a year in energy costs, according to a presentation made to Hendersonville leaders last week.

Mayor Jamie Clary invited officials with Path Company, LLC to address Board of Mayor and Aldermen members during an informal workshop on March 29.

Clary brought up the issue of replacing the city’s current street lights with LED lights a couple of years ago, but the idea stalled among more pressing issues like street paving and garbage collection.

There were also concerns at the time about how to negotiate with Nashville Electric Service (NES) who owns most of the city’s poles and lighting components.

Clary said he considered revisiting the issue after hearing about Path, a Memphis-based company, and its working relationship with NES at a conference of city leaders. The company is currently replacing Goodlettsville’s street lights with LED lights in conjunction with NES.

More and more cities are making the transition to LED lights as a way to cut costs and save energy.

Of Hendersonville’s approximately 2,470 street lights, more than 2,100 are served by NES and 370 are served by Cumberland Electric, according to Scott Gilmer, Path Company’s vice president of development.

Gilmer estimates the city is currently spending a little more than $330,000 a year on its street light bill. The bill is broken down into two components, Gilmer explained, energy or street light use and a perpetual investment charge from the electric companies.

“Under this current arrangement you basically have an indefinite lease [with NES and Cumberland Electric],” Gilmer said.

Gilmer’s company would perform an audit of all the city’s street lights, providing a GIS map of where every light pole is located, what fixtures are on that pole as well as who owns the light pole.

Clary said the audit, estimated to cost around $49,000, was something the city needed.

“Right now, we don’t know who owns what,” he said, noting that some home owners’ associations own street lights, the city owns some poles and the electric companies own others. In some cases, an HOA pays for electricity and the city pays for the structure, he added. In addition, some light poles have other providers on them like AT&T or Comcast.

“This just comes with 50 years of growth and the city not owning its own utility company,” said Clary. “It would be nice to know who owns what poles and who is on which pole.”

Following an audit, the company would replace the lights with LED lights, Gilmer said.

“We’re not just changing out bulbs, there’s a lot of engineering to it,” he added.

The conversion would save the city around $180,000 a year or about $4.8 million over a 20-year period, Gilmer noted.

The estimated cost of replacing the lights, including the audit would be around $2.1 to $2.3 million, he said.

Several aldermen seemed open to exploring the issue, with many asking questions like what would be NES’s role in the project, and should the city bid the project out to other companies.

In the end, Clary says it will come down to whether or not city leaders want to make it a priority as leaders begin to discuss the 2021-22 fiscal year budget.

“Probably our biggest hurdle is how to pay for it,” he said.

Clary names former rival Coker, Hasty to planning commission

Former Hendersonville mayoral candidate Jeff Coker and Charles Hasty, a former city public works director, joined the Hendersonville Regional Planning Commission this week as Mayor Jamie Clary’s most recent appointments.

The 10-member body meets twice a month and, with the city’s planning staff, makes recommendations to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on planning issues like land use, transportation and zoning changes.

By state statute, the mayor appoints eight members to the planning commission and may either serve on the commission or appoint a representative – called a statutory appointment. The 10th member is a city alderman elected by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Ward 2 Alderman Lee Peterson is currently serving in that position.

Clary appointed Coker, the president of a local insurance company, to fill the statutory role as his representative on the commission.

“I think he asked me to serve because we share similar values on planned growth,” said Coker, who ran against Clary for mayor in 2016.

In 2013, both he and Clary publicly opposed a rezoning for a 312-unit luxury apartment complex that eventually failed to get approval from city leaders.

“If apartments made a better community, then Antioch would be Bell Meade,” Coker was quoted as saying at the time.

The life-long Sumner County resident said he’s still not for approving more apartments, but adds he’s not against growth altogether.

“I’m for growth that raises the standard of living for everybody in the city,” he said. “I’m for having residential growth that’s in keeping with the character of who we are and who we want to be. Middle Tennessee is growing rapidly. We can’t stop the growth, but we can define what type of city we want to be,” he said.

Coker will replace attorney Kee Bryant-McCormick who was named to the commission in late 2012 by then-Mayor Scott Foster.

Bryant-McCormick had just been elected vice chairman of the commission in January.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” she said. “I always enjoyed how we interacted with each other — the level of professionalism that we showed one another even when we disagreed. That part was exceptional.”

Bryant-McCormick said she tried hard to listen to all sides of an issue and balance as best she could the rights of property owners and developers as well as concerned citizens and neighbors.

“I would hope my legacy would be fairness,” she said. “I was a diligent listener. I made sure I understood everybody’s point of view and tried to make informed decisions with each vote I took.”

A resident of Hendersonville since 1976, Hasty was named the city’s public works director and city engineer that same year. He also served for a year as the city’s acting city manager before moving into private development and consulting where he worked for another decade.

Hasty then worked for the Metro Nashville public works department for 20 years, serving most recently as the city’s Development Services Director.

Hasty said he’s been studying the city’s zoning ordinance and subdivision regulations in preparation for his new position, and believes his more technical experience will be an asset to the board.

“We have a zoning ordinance, a land use plan, a transportation plan, and subdivision regulations,” he said. “These basically guide how we make decisions.”

Hasty vowed to treat those who approach the commission fairly and professionally using those documents as a guide.

“We’ve got a great community and I’d like to see it continue to progress and grow in a pattern it has in the past,” he said.

Hasty replaces Charles Lea who was appointed to the commission in 2015.

Lea is a long-time educator who is currently serving as Special Assistant to the President for adult education and professor of educational leadership at Welch College. Lea also studied planning as an undergraduate at MTSU.

“It’s been a great honor to be able to serve and have a say-so about the development of the community,” said Lea.

He said many residents may not realize that the commission is limited in what it can and can’t allow as far as development.

“We can’t always just determine ‘I don’t like what you want to do with your property’,” he said. “We can have some input in design, and make sure you follow certain guidelines, but for the most part, we can’t tell you what you can and can’t do with property unless you’re asking for a rezoning or something like that. That’s a misconception sometimes.”

He said he’s seen a lot commercial and residential development in the city during his time on commission.

One thing he’s tried to focus on is encouraging development that will bring more jobs to Hendersonville.

“I’ve always been interested in projects that encourage both living and working here,” said Lea. We have had some success with that, and I hope we have more in the future.”

Clary said he appreciated the time Bryant-McCormick and Lea served on the commission.

“They’ve done a fantastic job,” he said. “But they have both been on the commission for several years and I am always open to new perspectives.”

Clary, who has now replaced seven of the nine members appointed by Foster, said that he looks for several factors when considering someone for the appointment.

“I’m appointing people who have a background in community service, who have previously served in a capacity involving the city and who understand the challenges the city faces in infrastructure,” noted Clary.