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City, council officials hash out entertainment district details

Sara McManamy-Johnson sjohnson@lebanondemocrat.com • Jan 10, 2014 at 6:00 PM

Members of Lebanon City Council, Wilson County Commission, Wilson County Schools and Lebanon Special School district met Thursday to learn more about a proposed entertainment district and event center in Lebanon.

“We have an opportunity for city and county and schools to come together and really do something unique and progressive for our community,” said Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead to the gathering.

Lebanon City Council members were set to vote Dec. 3 on the second reading of a measure to establish a Cumberland Center Development District of about 257 acres and to create a fund for the future development of a multipurpose event center at the heart of the district.

According to Mayor Philip Craighead, a private developer owning about 165 acres of the district would hand over title to 20 acres for the city to build the event center in exchange for the city adding infrastructure to the property.

Council delayed its final vote until councilors could talk with county commissioners and county school board members.

As part of the plan, the city would seek a collaboration with Wilson County and Wilson County Schools to help fund the proposed event center. Each entity would contribute sales tax dollars generated within the district to the fund.

Speaking on behalf of the county, Mayor Randall Hutto basically said the city would have to make the first move on the matter.

“If the City of Lebanon says to us, ‘Hey we want to take this entertainment district and set back our property tax and our portion of the sales tax and we’d like for you to set your portion of the property tax and sales tax back to see if we can create a strong enough revenue stream to fund this thing, then I would run that through budget first and then the county commission floor,” said Hutto. “What they would say back to me right off the bat is, ‘Is Lebanon in or out?’ Once that was done, they could make their decision, and then I’m sure it would go to the school system.”

Councilor Fred Burton said he wanted to hear an opinion from the schools.

“I wouldn’t have an opinion at this point,” said Scott Benson, director of schools for Lebanon Special School District. “I’ve read in the paper and I’m here learning myself.”

Tim Setterlund, Wilson County Schools’ director of schools, did not attend the meeting.

Craighead reiterated several times that the ordinance up for consideration just puts the mechanism in place to begin putting money aside.

“What we’re looking at here is more than anything just trying to get a plan and place and trying to be prepared and save,” said Craighead.

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