WKRN: Mt. Juliet farm spared from road project, other residents share concerns (1/25/2023)

WILSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — Long-time Mt. Juliet farmers Bill and Andy Ligon are breathing a sigh of relief after the city’s Board of Commissioners passed a resolution, ultimately shooting down a proposal to put a road through their property.

The father and son said the project would have put a road directly in the middle of their hayfield, disrupting their farm’s entire operation. They told News 2 their ancestors settled the land in the 1700s, before Tennessee was even a state. 

“Since I was a little kid, it’s been my dream to be able to continue the heritage, continue the legacy, and continue to be a farmer,” seventh-generation farmer Andy Ligon said.  

The Western Connection Project, currently in the planning stages, aims to help alleviate traffic on Mt. Juliet Road and create north-south connectivity for the city. Two of the project’s proposals looked at placing roads through the Ligon’s farm. Ultimately, this week, commissioners decided to opt for the proposal’s third option — widening South Greenhill Road to alleviate traffic, instead.  

“That’s my heart and soul, is farming and is agriculture, and being able to continue farming, I can’t ask for anything else,” Andy said. 

However, growth is a give and take for Mt. Juliet residents. According to Public Works and Engineering Director Andrew Barlow, widening South Greenhill Road would have varying levels of impact on more than 40 homes.

Any property needed for the project could be obtained through eminent domain, according to Mt. Juliet Public Information Officer Justin Beasley. Property owners would get at least market value, if not more, for the room needed to expand South Greenhill Road.  

Destinee Smith lives with her grandmother, Linda, along the route, and said they’d like to hold on to their inherited property, just like the Ligons.  

“You can’t put a price on something that’s priceless, on something that means a lot to us, no matter how small of an amount they take,” Smith said. 

Andy started putting out a cry for help on Christmas, asking the community to speak up and submit comment cards for the project, hoping to save his family’s farm.  

“I had no idea that this many people cared,” Andy said. “So it’s amazing to see just the heart of what Tennessee has and the citizens have for family farmers and local farmers.” 

His dad hopes the resolution will stick.  

“The bitter part is this was a resolution, meaning it’s nonbinding. This commission, or any other commission in the future, before the road is built, can change their mind,” sixth-generation farmer Bill Ligon said. 

Beasley told News 2 the Board of Commissioners listened to the concerns of Mt. Juliet residents and responded through their resolution. 

“Many people were concerned about the farm, and our Board of Commissioners certainly expressed that as well, and now you’re seeing a follow-up to the story that’s much different and I appreciate Channel 2, and specifically you, for reaching out to update people that are at home,” Beasley said. 

The City of Mt. Juliet hopes to include the Western Connector project in its next fiscal year’s budget, which begins in July.  

Beasley stressed that the project is still in the very early planning stages and will likely take years to complete. However, he said, infrastructure is the city’s number one priority, and the city wants to get the project started as soon as possible.

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