The Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners approved their yearly budget on first reading Monday night.
The total budget is $62 million. Of that total, $22 million is for personnel and operating expenses and $40 million is for capital items including vehicles, equipment, buildings and roadway projects.
The budget will undergo some changes before second reading. Commissioner Scott Hefner did a study and compared how City of Mt. Juliet employees are paid compared to 15 other municipalities.
“Our city employees are grossly underpaid,” said Hefner.
To bring the employee compensation up to standard, the budget added $638,000. To balance out the new funds, Vice Mayor Ray Justice requested City Manager Kenny Martin get back with department heads and find a way to take that amount of the rest of the budget to offset the new funds. Justice said he didn’t want the new compensation for employees to be touched.
“I want to make sure they get their raises,” said Justice.
Martin said he will bring recommendations back to the commission for second reading to help balance the funds.
Earlier in the meeting, the board looked at a change to the city’s beer ordinances, but the change was deferred.
Originally, the ordinance was supposed to reduce the amount of alcohol you could sell, which was based on a ratio of food sold. For every $1 earned on beer, and establishment would have to earn $5 in food.
A change at the table was proposed by Justice and Hefner. They proposed a new type of permit for entertainment venues that would be a 1-to-1 ratio. As it stands right now, certain entertainment establishments that serve alcohol couldn’t open in Mt. Juliet.
“Top Golf couldn’t come into Mt. Juliet at all,” said Justice.
Justice also used the example of Dave & Buster’s, or similar businesses. In the ordinance amendment, he mentioned other establishments that would go under this like movie theaters, theaters, arcades, art galleries, museums and many more.
The item was deferred for the other commissioners to further explore the proposal.
The commissioners also looked at lowering the requirement for RM-8 from 20 to 10 acres. It was deferred to gather some more information.
The Planning Commission approved the change Thursday by a unanimous vote with one abstention. It would make it so that people with tracts of land between 10 to 20 acres could now develop their land with townhome developments. Apartments and high rises could technically be put on those tracts of land, but there is a question to the economic feasibility of those sorts of developments on small acreage.
“There is a strong need for housing,” said Hefner. Hefner said there are currently only two homes in the city of Mt. Juliet for sale under $400,000. Hefner said people that work at all the new businesses coming to Mt. Juliet, like the Amazon facility, can’t afford to buy a home in Mt. Juliet.
“There is no question there is a need for housing in Mt. Juliet,” said Mayor James Maness. “My question is do we need to do this right now. I’m not opposed to it, just maybe not right now.”
The change to 20 acres was just made in Sept. 2020 by the Board of Commissioners. Planning suggested 10 acres, but former Mayor Ed Hagerty pushed for 20 acres, and it was approved by the Board of Commissioners.
Planning Director Jennifer Hamblen said she gets calls on development for tracts of this size at least three to four times a day. She said most are turned away, but there are some that are excellent developments.
Commissioner Jennifer Milele believed it opened the door for subsidized housing, more apartments and high rises.
The change was deferred for 30 days so the commissioners could get some questions answered on the ramifications of the change.
PLANNING APPROVES NEW DEVELOPMENT
In addition to approving the change to 10 acres, the Planning Commission approved Beckwith Station, a multi-tenant commercial building with a convenience store, eight gas pumps, two restaurants and professional offices. The development is located at 225 Wilfong Parkway off the Beckwith Road exit, just south of the TriStar ER building.
The commission also approved the final master development plan for Lynnhaven Phase 3 on Tate Lane. Some residents on Tate Lane spoke up before the vote over their concerns of the traffic that it would cause on the small county road. Tate Lane is not in city limits, but Lynnhaven as well as the new soccer complex planned at the end of Tate Lane are, and their traffic will be on that road. Lynnhaven plans to add 36 homes to the street, more than number of homes that were originally planned when the project was approved back in 2014. The project was approved as a part of the consent agenda.