Skirmish surfaces over lot adjacent to battlefield
As published in the Murfreesboro Post, October 8, 2006 By Erin Edgemon, Post business editor The owner of a small parcel of land along Old Nashville Highway is attempting to have his property rezoned commercial again. Mike Liles went before various Rutherford County boards and commissions 16 years ago trying to get the .65-acre parcel wedged in-between the Stones River Battlefield rezoned. He failed, it seems, due to the pleas of battlefield officials who want to purchase the property and don’t want to see the property developed. The parcel at 2421 Old Nashville Highway just off Thompson Lane is on the Stones River National Battlefield’s authorized boundary. “The Stones River (National) Battlefield has opposed my rezoning and have opposed rezoning prior, and so I am just asking that the county allow me to utilize that property as adjacent property owners are doing,” Liles said. He purchased the property in Aug. 31 and has used it for storage and rented it out. Stuart Johnson, superintendent of the Stones River Battlefield, said the property owner had a right to request the rezoning, but as the adjacent property owner the battlefield also has the right to express its concerns to the county. “We are just concerned about anything that could be built there and how it would affect the appearance of the battlefield,” he said. The Stones River National Battlefield owns approximately 650 acres bounded on one side by Old Nashville Highway. The battlefield is authorized to grow to encompass 712 acres. “We have steadily bought all of the property in that area over the last few years, and this is the latest remaining privately owned piece of land between the Visitors Center and the Thompson Lane overpass,” Johnson said. Battlefield officials are having to battle against Rutherford County’s explosive growth to maintain the battlefield’s rural setting. “We are concerned with the level of development in Murfreesboro and Rutherford County,” Johnson said. “We understand that development is going to happen. It is a natural thing that is going to happen.” Johnson said he doesn’t think the battlefield is endangered, but it is being encroached upon. The battlefield is still interested in purchasing the Liles property, but it will not go forward with condemnation proceedings to do so. Liles, who resides near the battlefield on Van Cleve Lane, said the property should be zoned commercial for the additional tax dollars it would generate for the county and for the money he could make on the sale of the property. He wants the property rezoned now because he has someone interested in purchasing the property for a Civil War relics and antique store. The Stones River Battlefield has made offers to purchase the property — $22,000 on Oct. 2, 1989, $22,000 on March 19, 1991 and $32,500 on Sept. 2, 2004. Liles obviously declined all those offers. Liles said he’ll sell the battlefield the property if it would pay the appraised market value. In June 2006, Rutherford County appraised the property for tax purposes at $53,000. An 11.49-acre lot zoned commercial fringe on Gresham Lane near the Medical Center Parkway just sold for roughly $215,000 an acre. “The property should belong to the battlefield,” Liles said, “but like any owner of any piece of property I want what it is worth.” In a letter submitted to the Rutherford County Planning Commission, Liles stated he would give the battlefield first refusal to purchase the property if it didn’t oppose the rezoning. That statement gives weight to James Patterson’s theory on why Liles wants the property zoned commercial. The president of the Friends of Stones River National Battlefield, a nonprofit preservation organization, expects Liles wants the property rezoned so the battlefield will be forced to shell out more money for the property. The future development committee of the Rutherford County Regional Planning Commission approved the rezoning allowing the request to be heard by the full commission. County Commissioner Steve Sandlin said there are commercial uses in the vicinity of Liles’ property. But other committee members debated whether there is even enough room with the requited setbacks to build on the small parcel of land. The county planning commission will address the rezoning when it meets Oct. 6 at 6 p.m. in the mezzanine room of the Rutherford County Office Building at One Public Square. Business Editor Erin Edgemon may be reached at 869-0812 and at email@example.com.