BY: Micca Terrell
A rocky hilltop filled with history that oversees some of Ashland City’s most scenic sights may soon become rumbling with construction crews again; this time, workers could be building more than 200 homes on the property containing the Braxton Lee Homestead, one of the oldest homes in the community. Planning commission members will meet on Monday, June 7, to discuss the developer’s plans and to hear concerns from the public.
According to documents posted on the Planning Commission’s website for the upcoming meeting, the BAM Group (including Amy Dugger of Nashville, Tenn., and Barry Mayo and Matthew Mayo of Pleasant View, Tenn.) is seeking approval for a development containing 211 homes for what is now the Braxton Lee home and property, approximately 90 acres of land along Highway 12 North and McQuarry Street. The development includes duplexes and triplexes and a playground and a dog park, based on the planning documents, and would be built in three phases. The BAM Group purchased the property from an investment group after the Braxton Lee Homestead Foundation did not raise enough funds to make their purchase about a year and a half ago.
According to the Foundation’s website, its vision encompasses purchasing the historic home and 57 acres surrounding it to preserve it for future generations; the nonprofit had its beginnings in 2018 when plans for a new county jail and transportation complex were proposed for the site. While the jail and transportation plans did not come to fruition, now the BAM Group has ownership of the property and is proposing development which in a statement it said is needed by the community:
“The Middle Tennessee area is known for its beautiful landscapes and this location certainly highlights that with incredible views of the river and rolling terrain. The proximity to Ashland City as well as Nashville will appeal to many different demographics. There is a need in the market for an active adult product that focuses on primarily single story, low maintenance living and we look forward to providing that product with both 2- and 3-bedrooms options starting in the $300’s.
“Prior to purchasing the property, we began discussing the possibilities of restoring the Braxton Lee home with the leadership of the Braxton Lee Homestead Foundation. This has been an ongoing conversation for almost three years that has included various fundraising efforts. The house was purchased at a premium price with the intent of working with the foundation to restore the property and utilize in a manner to serve both the neighborhood and the community. Unfortunately, the foundation has not provided a plan or been able to raise the funds to restore and maintain the property. Due to the changes made to the structure over the years, the house does not qualify for historical grants as it is no longer deemed historic in nature. The development team continues to work with the city, the county and various organizations that are committed to raising the funds to restore and maintain the house. We stand by our initial commitment to donate the property and are excited about the interest in the community to make this happen – BAM GP.
Braxton Lee Homestead Foundation leadership stated that they have provided plans and financial statements to the developers. In addition, during negotiations for a long-term lease agreement with BAM, the Foundation was not made aware of BAM’s plan to donate the house or property to the Braxton Lee Homestead Foundation or any other local nonprofit.
The Foundation said it remains committed to preserving the Lee Homestead property and house, which have been visited and inspected by Tennessee Historic Commission Director Patrick McIntyre and THC Historic Sites Program Director Dan Brown. Applications on behalf of the house have been submitted to the THC for consideration for the National Historic Register. The Foundation has also begun an online petition at http://chng.it/tGmrjCfGnr for concerned citizens to sign to support preservation of the Homestead.
The home, though renovated over the years by previous owners, has some of the original log features and original smokehouse, and has historical significance that many are concerned will be destroyed if the development moves forward. R. David Lee, one of the descendants of Braxton Lee and former owner of the Homestead, said the home was built in the early 19th century and is older than Cheatham County itself.
“In January of 1838, a vote was taken in the house to create a new county called Cumberland from portions of Davidson, Dickson, Montgomery, and Robertson counties. The first vote failed and later two more votes were onsite in the house. After the third vote passed, the county was formed 18 years later. Cumberland was initially the name considered, but was already taken, so the name Cheatham was chosen for our county.
“This house, known as the Lee Homestead, was actually a place where much of the frontier community gathered. It is 45-48 years older than Cheatham County.
“Many of your ancestors were connected with this property. Family names such as Atkinson, Basford, Binkley, Carney, Fuqua, Harris, Head, Hunt, Hunter, Jackson, Lenox, McQuarry, Peebles, Sanders, Stark, Stuart, Teasley, Walker, and Weakley have documented connections to this property. Cheatham county is more family than many of us realize, we really need to work together to cautiously move our county forward to manage the growth that is surely coming,” Lee said.
State historic commission officials also said the Lee Homestead should be kept intact. In a letter, McIntyre wrote, “The loss of the home and the outbuildings would mean the unfortunate and avoidable loss of a key irreplaceable historic resource for Ashland City and Cheatham County.”
Increased traffic would also be a concern, said Gina Binkley, board member of the Braxton Lee Homestead Foundation. “It doesn’t seem that Highway 12 could accommodate all that extra traffic” from work crews and ultimately new families moving into the development, Binkley said.
The Planning Commission meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday, June 7, at the Senior Center at 104 Ruth Drive, Ashland City, Tenn.