Monteagle Council Postpones Vote on Truck Stop Rezoning

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

After hearing nearly three hours of comments from concerned residents at the Feb. 22 meeting, the Monteagle City Council voted to postpone the first reading to rezone to C-3 a portion of a 20-acre tract for a proposed travel center catering to truck traffic. Concerned residents highlighted as yet incomplete studies and lack of information from the developers, RBT Enterprises.

The discussion opened with Mayor Marilyn Campbell Rodman entering into the record petitions opposing the truck stop submitted by Monteagle resident Mary Beth Best. Disagreement followed about the number of petition signers. Best said 218 property owners signed the petitions. Alderman Nate Wilson speculated electronic transmission of the document resulted in the discrepancy.

During the comment period, the council addressed some of the residents’ concerns.

Attorney Sam Elliott said he had sent RBT investor Rodney Kilgore a citation notifying him of $4,900 owed in fines for fencing ordinance violations at his Rocky Top Truck Stop business. Addressing a question about Kilgore owing as much as $30,000 in fines, Elliot said the judgment only reflected a 98-day violation period. Best said the business currently lacked a fence and was at present in violation. Kilgore’s business is expected to be part of the travel center if the project moves forward. [See Messenger, July 10, 2020]

Several residents cited the 2007 drought and expressed water shortage concerns. Alderman Wilson said interconnectivity now existed among all plateau water utilities, and Tracy City raised its dam increasing available water. Utilities Manager John Condra concurred with Rodman who said the truck stop should not cause a rate increase.

Rodman said traffic and sewer capacity studies were underway. City engineer Travis Wilson said he could present preliminary findings on the sewer capacity study at the rezoning public hearing and second reading of the rezoning ordinance scheduled for March 29.

Explaining the rezoning process, Alderman Wilson said, tonight’s rezoning vote “triggers a public meeting where we will discuss the pros and cons, and following that meeting there is a second vote…once the rezoning has happened, it [the RBT project] doesn’t come back to the full council again.” Wilson stressed before he would vote for approval at the second reading, he would need to see the final site plan and results from the traffic and sewer impact studies. “This is not me saying I’m ready to move forward and approve the truck stop, but asking for us to begin a process…In the next 30 days I hope we can bring some of this information to the top.”

Alderman Wilson said he met with RBT investor Brian Graber to discuss the need “to protect the neighbors.” Graber agreed to dark sky lighting to reduce light pollution and trucks on the residential property boundary backing into parking slots to reduce noise pollution from engines.

Resident Lucy Keeble expressed concern about “poisoning of the water supply” from hazardous chemical spills leaching into groundwater through sinkholes. “Maybe the [RBT] engineer has done all this testing, but we’re not privy to that,” Keeble said.

“We did Phase 1 testing prior to acquisition,” Graber said. “At this point, I don’t know that we’ll disclose that.” Graber insisted nothing in Phase 1 testing pointed to a need for Phase 2 testing. Alderman Wilson explained if Phase 1 testing indicated potentially hazardous environmental impact, Phase 2 testing was recommended.

Resident Debra Reed expressed concerns about what the town would be left with if the truck stop failed. Reed asked if the council had researched the financial health of the RBT investors. “Is this group strong enough to hold on if something goes wrong?” Reed asked.

Best asked if the council intended to vote on the rezoning without having a confirmed site plan, study results, and other critical data.

According to Alderman Wilson, Graber said revising the site plan would cost $10,000. Resident Joanne Atwood, whose property adjoins the proposed truck-stop site, said her property value had already decreased $30,000. Atwood and others asked the council to postpone the vote until all the data was received and reviewed.

When Rodman asked for a motion to pass on first reading the ordinance to rezone the RBT tract from R-3 to C-3, Alderwoman Jessica Favaloro made a motion to postpone the first reading to Monday, March 29. After voting to postpone, the council scheduled a special called meeting on Monday, March 15, from 5–7 p.m. Residents will have the opportunity to question the RBT engineer and pose other documentation questions.

The council also voted to approve rezoning the Phipps tract from R-1 to C-2; to allow the council to select a vendor for website design and maintenance, cost not to exceed $2,800; and to change the tenure of alderpersons to four years with staggered terms. Rodman said the tenure change would not affect current council members.