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Planners wrestle with Willow Creek topics

Whether or not to allow an internet sales-based business that sells high-tech gun locks to locate in Willow Creek took up about 45 minutes of a nearly 90-minute Sweetwater Regional Planning Commission/Board of Zoning Appeals meeting on Monday.

Planners met first as the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) to discuss a request by Dave Hellekson and New Viking Arms to open an internet sales office in an existing building in the heart of Willow Creek. Hellekson’s business would sell biometric fingerprint gunlocks online.

Hellekson said no manufacturing will take place if his business is allowed to move into the vacant space. The main activity would consist of product being shipped in and out of the location. Hellekson said just a few UPS, FedEx and Post Office trucks would be coming and going.

The question before the BZA was whether Hellekson’s internet business would be similar to the list of business operations that could be permitted under by a use-on-review approval, as outlined in Willow Creek’s Traditional Neighborhood District (TND) guidelines. Some of those allowances include: grocery stores, bakeries, drug stores, gift shops along with several more.

But the type of businesses listed as being allowed under use-on-review have one thing in common, people coming and going into the store, which is unlike an internet-based sales business.

“I don’t remember something like this coming before the (Planning) Commission before,” Mayor and Planning Commissioner Doyle Lowe said.

Lowe and the other Planning Commission member were not hostile to Hellekson’s request. Hellekson seemed at least open to perhaps having a product display area in the building to create a little foot traffic to make his business more similar to the permitted use on review businesses that could be allowed. He also said if business is good, he might eventually move his shipping and receiving to a different location.

But planners do face a quandary. If they allow this use and even if only a few trucks come and go each day, what if another business requests to move into Willow Creek and they have many trucks coming and going each day in a residential area?

Lowe suggested that the planners consider giving Hellekson’s business a six-month try, but in the end, the planners agreed to table the question until the May meeting. A workshop will be held at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall on May 20 before the regular meeting at 5 p.m.

If you live in Willow Creek, you might want to attend those meetings as at the regular meeting that Monday, Willow Creek Developer Jeff Darragh will discuss his plan to construct multi-family units in Willow Creek.

During the Planning Commission portion of Monday’s long meeting, planners voted to recommend the City Commission rezone John C. Langley II and Jerry Paterson’s parcels from C-3 (commercial) to R-1 (residential).

Planners agreed to add lighting requirements to the city’s Municipal Code that would allow Planning and Codes Enforcement Officer Chuck Whited to cite people into City Court if their lighting is a nuisance to neighbors.

Planners also voted to recommend the City Commission abandon two unused right-of-ways between Patton and West Street.

Planners finally approved some changes to the Planning Commission bylaws.

Submitted photo 

Monroe County Mayor Mitch Ingram, center, presents Madisonville Mayor Glenn Moser, right, and Alderman Fred Cagle, left, with a $25,000 check from the county for the City of Madisonville to use for community development. Madisonville will be using the county grant funds as a match for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) that was awarded to them by the State of Tennessee, which is being used for a new fire hall on Oak Grove Road.

Submitted photo 

Monroe County Mayor Mitch Ingram, left presents Sweetwater Mayor Doyle Lowe, right, with a $25,000 check from the county for the City of Sweetwater to use toward community development. Sweetwater will use their grant as matching funds for an Agriculture Grant, which will be used for infrastructure development to add electricity in several areas of downtown, as well as water and sewer lines at the Marketplace area.

Sweetwater's new Blooms, Bluegrass & BBQ Festival is this weekend

The wait is finally over, the new downtown Blooms, Bluegrass & BBQ Festival is slated for Friday and Saturday this week. The two-day event is sponsored by the Sweetwater Merchants and Property Owner’s Association.

The event is designed to attract visitors based on Sweetwater’s beauty and the love of music and good food. A wide variety of events, including even a 5-K run will give everyone something to do and hopefully bring many people staying overnight.

Sweetwater Mayor Doyle Lowe is excited for the new event and believes it will be big for Sweetwater.

“This is a bluegrass and barbecue area,” Lowe said. “I think everything will go just fine.”

Lowe thinks the festival will have a great first year and will keep building from there.

From 2011-2017, Sweetwater hosted a very successful fall festival, the National Muscadine Festival. In 2018, that festival was turned over to the Monroe County Chamber of Commerce, which holds the popular festival in September at Tsali Notch Vineyard.

There are chances of showers and perhaps thundershowers particularly on Friday but the weather will be mild with the high temperature well into the 70s.

This new festival for Sweetwater has been in the works for well over a year. It gives the city a great springtime event and is a kickoff in some ways to a busy summer season in Sweetwater for locals and tourists alike, which includes a state baseball tournament in July and the popular Independence Day celebration the city began in 2010 on July 4.

For more information, or on visit the festivals’ Facebook page.

Man runs, still gets arrested

A man was arrested early Monday after he allegedly ran because he had a bag of syringes on him.

Sweetwater Police Officer Kelvin Franco said it was around 3:30 a.m. when he saw a vehicle run a stop sign on Patton Street and then take off at a high rate of speed down Monroe Street.

Franco said he went after the car and followed it to a house on Monroe Street, where the driver jumped out and took off on foot.

The officer jumped out and gave chase, soon catching a man he identified as Nathan Henderson. Franco said when he asked Henderson why he ran, Henderson said he was scared because he had a “bag of syringes” on him.

Franco said he read Henderson his rights and asked him if there was anything illegal in his car. Henderson said not that he knew of and told the officer he could search it.

Upon searching the car, however, Franco said officers found a plastic bottle with a substance thought to be meth under the passenger seat.

Franco said he then found the syringes Henderson had mentioned behind the house, where Henderson had allegedly tossed them.

Henderson, 29, Monroe Street, Sweetwater, was arrested and charged with possession of meth, possession of drug paraphernalia and evading arrest.

Sweetwater Police have a busy weekend

From a woman lying on the side of the road to a man who allegedly picked up a vacuum cleaner from a shelf and took it to returns, Sweetwater Police ran into all kinds over the weekend.

Officer Kelvin Franco said he was on routine patrol just after 8 p.m. on Friday when he saw a vehicle swerve and cross the center line on High Street. Franco said he turned around to check on the car, but as he did he saw why the car had swerved.

A woman was lying on the side of the road with her bags.

Franco said he stopped and found the woman to be Mona Dotson, 51, West Street, Sweetwater.

Franco said he began to talk to Dotson, asking her what was going on, and he noticed her speech was slurred. He asked her if she was under the influence of anything and she said she had not taken anything but her prescribed medication.

The officer tried to do some field sobriety tests on Dotson, but she had trouble keeping her head steady.

Franco said due to the condition she was in and the danger she presented to herself and others, he took her into custody, charging her with public intoxication.

On Saturday, Officer Brandon Cansler said he went to Walmart, where the loss prevention officer told him about a man taking a vacuum cleaner from its display and walking straight to customer service where he “returned” it.

Cansler said the man was given a Walmart gift card worth $218.40 and he tried to leave with it, but loss prevention stopped him.

The man was identified as Christopher Dixon, 24, County Road 733, Calhoun. He had been banned from all Walmart stores in June 2018.

Cansler said a search of Dixon also turned up a counterfeit $10 bill.

Dixon was charged with theft, criminal trespassing and criminal simulation.

Reported shenanigans continued Sunday when Officer Robert Burris went to the Save-A-Lot on Main Street on a report that a guy was wanting to fight people.

Burris said he arrived around 3 p.m. and saw a man, whom he knew as Gregory Scott Nelson, standing in the parking lot.

Burris asked Nelson what was going on and Nelson reportedly said he wanted to “fight somebody.” The officer said he could smell alcohol coming off Nelson and noted that the suspect acted aggressively toward law enforcement.

Nelson would not turn around and put his hands behind his back and officers had to force handcuffs onto him.

Nelson, 26, Old Highway 68, Sweetwater, was charged with public intoxication and disorderly conduct.

And also on Sunday, it was Officer Franco’s turn again.

Franco said he was leaving the Police Department around 7 p.m. to answer a call when a man, who was identified as James (Jamie) McCulloch, came up to him wanting to make a report. After listening to what it was, Franco said he told McCulloch it was a civil matter.

  • McCulloch apparently did not take too well to being told this. Franco said McCulloch told him he was “too much of a pto deal with it.”

The officer said he told McCulloch to leave before he was arrested.

McCulloch allegedly responded by walking out into the street and yelling, “I hope you guys get shot by a bunch of Mexicans!”

Franco said McCulloch was acting irate and yelling so loudly that people at a church could hear him, as well as another officer who was on the other side of city hall.

McCulloch, 41, Glenwood Drive, Sweetwater, was charged with disorderly conduct.