(I apologize for an error in this story. The Murfreesboro planning commission meets on the first Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. and on the third Wednesday at 1 p.m. I am used to working as a reporter in towns where both city council and the planning commission meet at night. The 1 p.m. time for today’s meeting was clearly listed on the agenda, and I somehow read past it. I’m getting too old for this game.)

We just got the best news on the planning front since Davy Crockett walked the streets of Murfreesboro.

The planning commission Wednesday will consider a new zoning district that gives developers plenty of leeway without attaching so many toxic uses that are associated with heavy industrial zoning.

John Harney, a major developer here, has used a formula to get the heavy industrial zoning he wants while tossing a sop to residents. If the council will rezone a parcel to heavy industry, he signs a commitment not to put any of the really nasty heavy industrial uses ( like fertilizer plants, petroleum and coal products refining or  nuclear materials facilities) on the land.

That’s called “contract zoning”, and it is a dumb way to run a city. It’s unclear whether Harney’s commitments would bind future owners of property in the zone. It’s a question to ask at the meeting. If not, they represent a kind of “ticking bomb” that could go off in the future if the existing owners ever sell their properties. This was the maneuver Harney used to get a heavy industrial rezoning he wanted on the Amazon side of Joe B. Jackson Parkway next to Magnolia Trace.. That contract zoning formula is also being used on a pending rezoning request to heavy industry for 233 acres of land south of Rutherford Blvd and between the Sommsrby residential development and Butler Drive.

The new zoning category, called “general industrial” seems like a win-win for developers and homeowners. It would ban:

— Manufacture, Storage, Distribution of:
• Asbestos Products
• Automobile Dismantlers and Recyclers
• Chemicals
• Composting Facility
• Fertilizer
• Leather and Leather Products, Tanning and Finishing
• Lumber and Wood Products
• Mobile Home Construction
• Paper Mills
• Petroleum, Liquified Petroleum Gas and Coal Products except refining
• Petroleum and Coal Products Refining
• Primary Metal Manufacturing
• Saw Mills
• Scrap Processing Yard
• Scrap Metal Processors
• Scrap Metal Distribution and Storage
• Secondary Material Dealers
• Refuse Processing, Treatment and Storage
• Landfill
• Junkyard

Each of the above uses would still be allowed by right or by Special Use Permit in the
H-I zoning district. Adult oriented businesses would be barred from the G-I
district, but would continue to be allowed by right in the H-I zoning district subject to certain
distance and separation requirements.

Hopefully, the new zone would eliminate heavy industrial zoning near homes.

Among the other items on the agenda:

— A proposal to expand the city’s core overlay district to the historic bottoms and north highlands area. The overlay district has tighter building regulations than would be called for normally in a zone.

— Initial design review for a 10,501 square-foot restaurant on 2.7 acres along Medical Center Parkway

— An annexation plan and rezoning of 3.1 acres along Shelbyville Pike to  a commercial highway zone. These zones have commercial uses that are related to major highways.

The planning commission meets at 6 p..m. on the first Wednesday of each month in the city council chambers at city hall, which is to the right of Linebaugh Library. It also meets at 1 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month in room 2018 at city hall. The planning commission merely makes recommendations. All final decisions are made by the city council. The planning staff has recommended May 1 as a possible public hearing date for the proposed GI zone.