Arlington rezoning sparks heated debate

Proposed rezoning of Business Entertanment Zoning District in Arlington, Tenn.

In an intense three-hour meeting and in split voting, the Arlington board of aldermen approved rezoning the town’s Business Entertainment (BE) Zoning District. This will affect the boundaries of where beer can be sold in Arlington and affect where businesses are concentrated.

Ten residents and business owners, primarily restaurant owners, spoke out to oppose the move before the vote. Business people tied to the Depot Square area were concerned about loss of small-town identity, competition elsewhere in town after they had heavily invested in the downtown, and other factors. A common sentiment was the wish for the businesses to “be kept all together, so we can grow the same.”

A businesswoman said that taking away the restricted zoning that drew businesses to Arlington will cause them to go elsewhere.

Several agreed with the sentiment that changing the zoning at this time in this manner could lose the faith of the town’s people.

One vocal spokesman against the rezoning is Keith Haynes, owner of Jackson’s on the Square, a white-tablecloth restaurant in Arlington. He said opposition is primarily against the rezoning, not against adding competitive restaurants within the existing Business Entertainment Zoning District.

After the vote, he commented privately about the board’s discussions and actions, saying, “Really, none of them had a grasp on what they had to vote on.”

He and other opponents to the rezoning said they wished the town’s leaders had explained the redistricting more publicly and in greater detail before any voting was held.

Haynes said, “This behind-the-scenes thing needs to stop. We’re a town now.”

Greg Phillips of Lakeland had a supporting comment during the public part of the meeting. He noted that he is not a Lakeland business/property owner and said he doesn’t understand why spreading the opportunity to sell beer in the balance of the town would in any way diminish opportunities for other businesses.

He added, “I think it’s the fiduciary duty of the board to look out for the entire citizenry, and we’re considerably bigger than we were in 2005 (when current zoning was approved).”

The key ordinances that were approved Monday are summarized below. The mayor and board also frequently noted during discussions that nothing’s final yet. They said an ordinance can be discussed and amendments proposed before its second reading.

It’s important to understand that ordinances require approval on both the first and second reading before they become part of the town’s code.

New Ordinances

The three major ordinances approved were:

  • Ordinance 2014-07. It amended Title 8 of the town’s municipal code (amending, deleting and adding some sections in Chapter 2). This was the ordinance’s first reading, and it passed on a 4-3 vote. Dissenters were Gerald McGee, Harry McKee, and Jeff McKee.
  • Ordinance 2014-08. It eliminates the city’s Business Entertainment (BE) Zoning District and changed the rezoning map (see page 3). This was the ordinance’s first reading, and it passed on a 5-2 vote. Dissenters were Gerald McGee and Harry McKee. The rezoning is as follows for certain parts of Arlington, as shown in the map:
    • BE to Shopping Center (SC)
    • BE to B3 (Downtown Business)
    • BE to B2 (General Business)
  • Ordinance 2014-09. It changes bulk regulations and densities for zoning districts, provisions governing business districts, Arlington Depot Square Overlay District, uses permitted in zoning districts, specific provisions for conditional or residential uses, and minimum/maximum parking space requirements. This was the ordinance’s first reading, and it passed unanimously.

One of the debated aspects of the ordinances passed Monday night was whether to extend where beer may be sold in the town; per the board’s vote, it’s no longer going to be limited to the BE Zoning District.

As they debated for hours, the board, mayor and other city officials mentioned how much more difficult it has become to balance the town’s budget and how intensely some additional revenue is needed.

Mayor Mike Wissman emphasized that, while the town continues to value and heavily invest in Depot Square, Arlington also has to continue working on a broader vision for development. The town cannot adopt a strategy solely relying upon one geographical or business area.

“Everyone that moves to Arlington wants to be the last one in, and close the door behind them,” he said.

He said that the town’s residential growth and financial needs are driving the board’s decisions. “Property taxes alone don’t cover the expenses that we have to operate the town. They don’t. Corporate sales tax does.”

Written by Carolyn Bahm, Express editor. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to