Developers want to build distillery in Murfreesboro

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MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) – Could Murfreesboro be the next Lynchburg, Tennessee, where the Jack Daniel’s Distillery led to an economic and tourism boom?

Developers want to build a distillery on property that borders several subdivisions off Florence Road. Some residents are not too happy about the potential new neighbor and have vowed to fight to the bitter end to try and keep the distillery from coming.

Patrick Banker purchased a home in the Thistle Downs Subdivision on Lighting Bug Drive in Murfreesboro about a year and a half ago.

“Right now, it’s great living there,” Banker said.  “We love our neighbors. It’s beautiful.”

He told News 2 he’s worried about a possible new neighbor destroying his quality of life.

“There is going to be a major concern with the traffic,” he said. “We’re going to have semi-trucks, delivery trucks, visitors and employees driving right through the middle of our neighborhood – the same neighborhood where we walk our dogs and play with our children.  There is a safety concern with that.”

He said there are also environmental concerns.

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“There is going to be the concern with pollution, the noise, the smells,” he said.  “They are going to have 40 to 50 foot barrow houses that are blocking and obstruction the view of the neighborhood.”

If approved, the proposed distillery, referred to as the Sazerac Development, would sit at the dead-end of Honey Bee Drive, just off Asbury Road.

Developers are examining whether to buy the land, which would have to be re-zoned to build a distillery operation, and several buildings on the property.

“All this is going to do is make people upset. It’s going to drive down the value of our houses and it’s going to affect the local people, not just in Thistle Downs, but the entire area along with the businesses in a negative way.  There is nothing positive that going to come out of this,” Banker said.

Others though, see it as an economic boom and job growth like the Jack Daniel’s plant in Lynchburg.

“They are going to start with 20, maximum amount 40, and the majority of them will come from other distilleries, so it’s not elevating the job growth in the Murfreesboro area.  It’s literally not doing [anything] for the local area except causing problems,” he said.

Many are asking why build a distillery here, for one, this property used to be a rock quarry and it has two natural springs on it, which is advantageous for manufacturing alcohol.

Those opposed also point out that several large distilleries like Jim Beam and Jack Daniel’s, which have faced lawsuits about possible mold or a fungus affecting people who live nearby, possibly causing health problems.

“There are people in that area that are opposed and there are also people that are in favor of,” said Murfreesboro City Councilman and Planning Committee member Eddie Smotherman.

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Smotherman attended an informational meeting with developers and residents.

He said he sees both sides of the debate.

“With any new business coming to town, we’re always excited to see what the opportunities are, if there’s job opportunity, are there opportunity for tourism development, so we look at everything from that prospective, but we also look at it as is that business the right fit for Murfreesboro,” Smotherman said.

Right now the city of Murfreesboro doesn’t even allow distilleries.

“Per ordinance in Murfreesboro, we currently do not allow a distillery, we would allow a brewery, but not a distillery, that would have to be changed for anything to be approved,” the councilman said.

As of now, developers haven’t even submitted an application for a distillery to the city.

There are a number of other huddles that will have to be crossed before a distillery is built. The planning commission will have to approve re-zoning from residential to Planned Unit Development. The land in question is not even within city limits, so it would have to be annexed.