Members of a Murfreesboro community have banded together to try to keep an undeveloped green area from being re-zoned into a residential area that would house 91 town homes.
“We think the city is making a huge mistake,” Jake Burkhalter, a Murfreesboro resident, said after the planning commission approved the re-zoning of the area off of North Highland Avenue.
The property in question is 11.6 acres that borders Oaklands Park. The property has wildlife, as well as a creek that is fed by a fresh spring in Oaklands Park, and on Thursday, the city council is expected to hear public comment on the re-zoning, and they may vote on the zoning change.
Because of that, Burkhalter and other residents have been working to gather signatures on a petition to present to the city council urging them to vote no on the zoning change.
“Obviously there’s other places to put a housing development,” Burkhalter explained. “Preserving this far outweighs in value to the city and residents anything that could be gained by paving this over, by grading and bulldozing and putting in a big housing development. It just ruins this area forever.”
But what many don’t know is that the area is already zoned commercial, so at any time, a developer could come in and put in office buildings and parking lots.
“Most people don’t understand that we’re downzoning it. We’re taking it from a commercial zoning to a residential zoning,” Brian Burns, developer for the proposed project, said. “This is an older part of town, it’s sort of redeveloping itself, and I think this will be a development that will really jumpstart this part of town.”
Burns said the family that owns the property has already donated 7 acres to the city in the past, and they have offered to sell the city the remaining 11.6 acres for just over $600,000, but the city declined the offer.
Now, with the new proposal, Burns said he’d donate an additional 3 to 4 acres to the city to help preserve the nearby creek and to help expand the greenway.
“The family who’s selling this property has done their part, and I feel we’ve done our part,” Burns said.
Still, members of the community want this to be preserved due to the lack of green space in the historic downtown, and due to the history and nature aspects of the property.
“Let’s stop and talk about how we can preserve this as a green space,” Burkhalter said.
The public hearing is set for Thursday at 7 p.m.