Monteagle Council Approves Rezoning for Truck Stop

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

After hearing from nine residents in opposition and two in favor, the Monteagle council voted to rezone an approximate 6-acre parcel from R-3 to C-3. More than 40 people attended the March 29 meeting. The parcel is a portion of a 20-acre tract owned by RBT Enterprises. RBT hopes to construct a Petro Travel Center catering to truck drivers at the site.

Among those who spoke during the public comment period was Monteagle resident Greg Rollins who recently returned from traveling across the country with his wife. “We struggled to find a truck stop we would be proud to live next to,” Rollins said. He reported observing trash blowing from the truck stop site to neighboring property at every location the couple visited.

Resident and retired engineer Jim Waller provided documentation showing drainage “from the north end of [the proposed truck stop site]…flowing into Laurel Lake” Monteagle’s primary water supply. Waller also noted there were 13 water wells in the area and an underground aquifer, which sloped toward Laurel Lake.

Residential and commercial property owner Debra Reed expressed concern about truck drivers emptying their urine jugs on the asphalt. “It will go where the water goes,” Reed said.

Resident and commercial truck driver Kyle Lewis acknowledged, “Rollins’ account of truck stops is close to accurate.” Lewis said he had seen abandoned urine bottles in parking lots, but “only gross people dump their urine out.” Lewis stressed, “Monteagle has always had a truck stop…most of Marion County and Grundy County is already ate up with drugs. [Another] truck stop is not going to add to the problem…I believe we need it.”

Resident Mary Beth Best, who lives adjacent to the proposed truck stop, quoted from Monteagle ordinances which promised “to preserve individual property rights while also protecting other citizens and businesses from unsafe and incompatible land uses.” “You [the council] are obligated to protect our properties,” Best said. “We were here first.”

RBT investor Rodney Kilgore noted the property in question had C-3 zoning when RBT purchased it. (The zoning was declared invalid due to inadequate meeting notice. See Messenger, Nov. 4, 2020.)

“There is a truck stop next to us,” Kilgore said. “Why are we any different?”

Resident Billy Moon said water runoff from Kilgore’s Rocky Top business washed out his parent’s driveway. “Rocky Top has never tried to be a neighbor to the community,” Moon insisted. (The 20-acre RBT tract includes the Rocky Top Truck Stop and calls for incorporating that business into the travel center. (See Messenger, July 10, 2020.)

City engineer Travis Wilson provided preliminary results from the sanitary sewer system study currently underway. T. Wilson based his observations on a heavy 2.5-inch rainfall event. T. Wilson explained rain water should not be going into the sanitary sewer system, but rather into storm water drains. The excessive inflow and infiltration (I&I) “taxes the waste water treatment plant.” In summary T. Wilson said, the central pump station had sufficient capacity, but the main pump station was operating at “90 percent capacity during wet weather…most of the I&I is coming from the north side of Main Street.”

Before voting, several council members offered observations on the RBT proposal.

Alderwoman Dorraine Parmley said the council received a petition with 218 signatures opposing the rezoning and a petition with 168 signatures in favor of it. “We want to keep the neighbors happy,” Parmley said, “but we also want to keep the revenue coming in…and this is looking really good.”

“I don’t see it as a conflict to have a Petro Travel Center at an exit where we want people to exit,” Alderman Nate Wilson said. Encouraging traffic to exit could help support local business and tourism, he argued. N. Wilson said he spoke at length with both the neighbors and developers—“I feel really proud about the agreements we’ve come to and the way the site plan is going to be revised.” He pointed to a buffer wall, landscaping, and other measures to address noise, light, and sound pollution.

Alderwoman Jessica Favaloro asked, “if the truck stop doesn’t happen, what happens in the future for economic development here?” Favaloro speculated other developers would decline considering Monteagle for fear of being sued or otherwise denied.

The council unanimously approved the rezoning on the first reading. The planning commission will take up the site plan at the April 6 meeting.

In other business, the council approved hiring David Green, former Sewanee Fire Department chief, to serve as a consultant to the Monteagle Fire Department. Green’s salary will be $5,000 for the first six months. Green has over 50 years’ experience as a fire fighter.

Mayor Marilyn Campbell Rodman announced Sparkle Week would be the second week of May. Monteagle employees will pick up trash residents place at curbside. The city will not collect tires, batteries or building supplies.

The Monteagle Easter egg hunt will be at 5 p.m., Saturday, April 3, at Hannah Pickett Park. (Correct time is noon on Saturday, April 3.)