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Pegram postpones zoning meeting on proposed ‘Swingzone’ facility

The Town of Pegram is once again deferring its Board of Zoning Appeals meeting on March 11, in which officials planned to take up the matter of Pegram Alderman Randy Howington’s proposed “Swingzone” facility off Hwy 70. 


The Town of Pegram was originally slated to take up the subject during its Feb. 12 meeting, but it was canceled due to an error with the legal notice’s parcel number. According to the town, the March meeting has been postponed on the applicant’s request. 


A new organization, the Pegram Preservation Association, is heavily campaigning against Howington Construction’s plan to build a for-profit indoor baseball facility on a 26 acre parcel that sits between Cheatham and Davidson County – and in Pegram’s residential neighborhood Dreamland Estates.


The association’s President, Miranda Christy Montgomery, told the Gazette in an exclusive interview last month that the group formed when they learned of a new ordinance the Town of Pegram passed in August 2023. The zoning ordinance now allows special exceptions for the construction of for-profit commercial development in all Pegram neighborhoods. 


“We started because we got wind of – or we discovered – this ordinance was passed,” Montgomery said. “We feel like there is a space for dialogue around how do we want to grow? What do we want our town center to look like? Instead of one person or a couple people in the leadership getting to decide that they have a pet project that they want to put through.” 


She continued, “We did not realize that this ordinance had been passed and we want to raise awareness among the entire city of Pegram that this could happen not just in one particular neighborhood, but in any residentially zoned district of the city of Pegram.” 


The group is arguing that projects proposed under Pegram’s new Ordinance 2023-158 will decrease residential home values in the area; create traffic and safety issues; and adversely affect Pegram’s diverse and rich wildlife. 


“Ordinance 2023-158 was passed by Pegram's leadership to give one of Pegram's aldermen the ability to construct a ‘for-profit’ development project in Pegram's zoned residential areas. Since the ordinance passed, he has made several applications to move forward with the project. So far each attempt has been thwarted by citizens, but this fight is just beginning,” the group said.


Town officials addressed the topic during their monthly February Pegram Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting, during which the Town attorney, Martha Brook Perry, stated that the new ordinance was enacted this summer to “clean up discrepancies” that the Planning Commission noticed as a result of Alderman Howington's request. Perry noted that the discrepancies in the zoning law stemmed from 2018, when previous town leadership “went through a huge overhaul” of the zoning ordinance.


Perry explained that the 2023 ordinance moved previously only non-profit “Recreational Centers and Gymnasiums" to a category of "Intermediate Impact Facilities" in the Pegram Zoning Code, to provide a higher standard of review by the Board of Zoning Appeals. Before the new ordinance, Perry stated that a "high impact" facility, like a YMCA, would theoretically be permitted as a special exception in a residential area under the previously existing zoning code. 


She assured the community that special exceptions, like Howington Construction’s Swingzone facility, must go through an approval process with Pegram’s Board of Zoning Appeals – which she described as “quasi-independent” to the Pegram Board of Mayor and Alderman. Howington’s wife, Samantha, sits on the zoning board. 


Alderman Howington did not respond to the Gazette for comment. 


Perry explained that, by Tennessee state law, all involved parties that are conflicts of interest must recuse their vote on the matter. As he did when he sold the property to Howington Construction in December 2023, Pegram Mayor John Louallen disclosed his conflict of interest: he represented Howington as the realtor in the purchase of the property at the corner of Beverly Hills Drive and Hwy 70. 


He noted during the February meeting that he would recuse himself from any future vote involving this project “if it even gets to that point.” The town’s attorney stated during the meeting that there are no conflicts of interests on the Board of Zoning Appeals, despite Samantha Howington’s membership. 

  

“Pegram is a special place and I appreciate the interest residents are showing regarding this issue,” Mayor John Louallen told the Gazette. “My family moved here 20 years ago, raised our children here and we love this community.” 


“One thing is certain, Middle Tennessee is not the same place as it was when my wife grew up here. Growth is occurring all around us. In many ways, the Pegram area is fortunate because our growth is limited compared to areas like Gallatin or Lebanon because of the topography, Harpeth River and CSX,” he continued, adding, “One thing I believe all parties can agree on is we want what is best for all Pegram residents, although we may not always agree on the best path to get there.” 


“As of today, Mr. Howington has not provided any detailed plans for review. As I understand, this is due to the unique nature of the property being located in two counties,” Mayor Louallen said. “Until plans are submitted, and the developer presents their proposal, it's premature for me to comment on a project where I don't have all the details.” 

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