A 166-unit townhome development has been approved near the intersection of Long Hollow Pike and State Route 109 in Gallatin despite concerns from some city leaders who said they were worried about how the project could impact future road improvements in the area.
The Gallatin City Council voted 5-2 on final reading last week in favor of a preliminary master development plan and rezoning request for 32.9 acres located north of Walnut Crest Drive and west of Laura Street.
The vote comes as the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) continues work on a new feasibility study to evaluate possible future road improvements along a nearly 2-mile portion of the S.R. 386 corridor between GreenLea Boulevard and S.R. 109 near the new residential development.
“There still really are a lot of moving parts,” City Engineer Nick Tuttle said about the study prior to the vote on Sept. 21. “I don’t know how it will impact this piece of property or if it will impact it at all.”
Plans for the development include one road connection onto Laura Street and another onto Walnut Crest Drive just south of Deer Park Circle. There would be no direct access to either S.R. 109 or Long Hollow Pike.
City leaders previously voted to defer a vote on the plan and property rezoning in July to allow for more time to receive the findings from TDOT’s feasibility study. However, a final version of the study has not yet been completed.
“I still feel like it should be deferred until we know what the state has decided,” said District 1 Councilwoman Lynda Bradley Love, who voted against the project last week along with District 2 Councilwoman Eileen George. “(That area) is already crowded.”
According to a staff report about the project from the city’s planning department, the property is no longer conducive for commercial development, which it was previously zoned for, following the construction of S.R. 109 which limited access to the site to local streets in an already established neighborhood.
Earlier this month, city leaders heard concerns about the new townhome development from Walnut Crest Drive resident John Letterman who spoke during a public hearing about the project on Sept. 7.
Letterman said that many drivers speed down Walnut Crest Drive, which does not have sidewalks and often has children playing in the street, which has led to at least five wrecks this year.
“People that are coming off State Route 25/Red River Road come down through there to get on Long Hollow Pike,” Letterman added. “They are in a hurry and the street, in my opinion, is over-utilized as it is.”
While the development will add more traffic to the area, rezoning the property for a residential use will “mostly likely” result in a “significant decrease” in daily traffic when compared to potential commercial uses, according to the city planning department staff report about the project. However, a full traffic impact study is not required until a final master development plan is submitted. At that time, additional road improvements in the area may be required.
If city leaders had voted against the proposed townhomes, City Planner Bill McCord said last week that the property could still be developed using its existing zoning.
“They wouldn’t be building homes on there,” McCord said prior to the vote. “It would be some sort of commercial activity.”
As for feasibility study, Tuttle said he was not aware of when it might be completed by TDOT. He also added that potential costs that have been mentioned for possible improvements to the corridor have been “in the range of $100 million.”
“They realize the sensitivity of this area, the pressures of development and just really the traffic that we’re already dealing with not to mention the stuff that we expect to happen in the next 25 years,” Tuttle said about TDOT last week. “They could break (the improvements) into multiple small projects, or it could be one huge project that addresses this corridor between S.R. 386 and S.R. 109. If they move stuff forward it would take years really before we could see actual construction.”
Construction of the Walnut Crest townhome development is expected to take one year to complete and could start as soon as this year, according to plans for the project.