Keith Free

Keith Free

The narrow failure last week of a $125 million mixed-use project proposed for the Glenbrook shopping area - as well as the defeat of the 650-home Forest Park proposal in September - haven’t cooled interest in building projects in Hendersonville, according to Planning Director Keith Free.

“The intensity of interest is still there,” said Free. “And they’re interested in building more residential, commercial and office - things are still moving forward.”

While city leaders are taking a closer look at high-density residential projects and the impact they could have on traffic, Free added Hendersonville is not unlike other Middle Tennessee communities that are also grappling with issues related to growth.  

Vastland Development Partnership requested to amend the current Glenbrook North master plan in order to create a mixed-use development of condos, town homes and retail businesses on roughly 25 acres west of Stein Mart and adjacent to the current Glenbrook shopping area.

Already approved for commercial uses, the new Glenbrook Village would have added 331 for-sale residential units to the area at a time when city leaders seem reluctant to approve high-density projects amid infrastructure concerns.

Although a majority of the Hendersonville Regional Planning Commission recommended the project three weeks earlier – hailing it as a unique housing option for Hendersonville residents similar to the mixed-use Westhaven development in Franklin, Tenn. – the city’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen turned the project down Nov. 28 seven votes to six. 

The vote followed a public hearing in which several residents expressed concerns about traffic in the area.

However, Vastland Vice President Ken Renner and landscape architect Jeff Hines said the proposed project would generate less traffic than if the property were developed with only commercial uses. 

“What we’ve heard is a lot of frustration about traffic – and we’ve heard you,” said Renner, stressing that adding a residential component would reduce traffic by 18 percent.

“Mixed-use generates less traffic than just commercial,” he said.

A few years ago, the developers of a proposed apartment project where the retail development that now houses Michael’s and Fresh Market are now located, offered a similar argument. City leaders turned down the apartment project and approved the retail development.

In September city leaders turned down the 650-home development off of Saundersville Road known as Forest Park despite offers to contribute significantly to infrastructure concerns in that area.

Like the developers of Forest Park, Vastland also offered to make both on-and off-site infrastructure improvements – from three-laning Forest Retreat Road around the perimeter of the property and contributing $25,000 for sidewalk improvements across Glenbrook Way, to contributing to the widening of Center Point Road near Vietnam Veterans Boulevard.

A ‘no growth’ mode

But still, it wasn’t enough to garner a majority of votes for the project.

“I agree this looks good on paper,” said Ward 6 Alderman Jim Waters. “But when I think about the vehicles this will bring… it’s mind-boggling to me. The word growth has become a conversation piece.  ‘If you build it they will come. Yes, they will come but for how long?”

Waters noted that he counted eight vacant store fronts in the Glenbrook shopping area.

“This does not sound like growth to me,” he said. “We need to change our way we think about development.”

Arlene Cunningham, who represents Ward 3, asked about improvements to Hunts Lane – a two-lane road that connects the Glenbrook area with Center Point Road.

“There are no improvements planned for a two-lane, no shoulder road toward Center Point that’s crumbling,” she said.

Ward 6 Alderman Matt Stamper said that Vastland addressed many of the city’s concerns and that he supported the project.

 “We need people to eat at our restaurants. We need roof tops,” he said. “If we vote this plan down then I think we lose out on some amenities that are badly needed [in that area].”

Stamper added that the city’s board seems to be in a “no-growth mode, and that’s troubling.”

“Right now is the peak of the growth in Nashville – in Hendersonville – and we keep shutting developers down over and over and over and I’m sick of it,” he added.

Free said developers don’t seemed to be deterred by the recent ‘no’ votes.

“At this point the developers are still bringing things to the planning department,” he said. “We live in a very desirable area.”

Voting no for the Glenbrook Village project were Peg Petrelli, Mark Skidmore, Arlene Cunningham, Angie Hedberg, Jim Waters, Darrell Woodcock and Mayor Jamie Clary.

Yes votes included Steve Brown, Pat Campbell, Andy Gilley, Scott Sprouse, Hamilton Frost and Matt Stamper.

Recommended for you