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Gets even better! I especially love how this will help cure Tennessee of it's meth problem:


News Channel 5 Story

By Phil Williams

Chief Investigative Reporter


NASHVILLE, Tenn. - There are even more questions about that fantastic-sounding development promised for Spring Hill.


A developer unveiled his plan Wednesday for what's called "Festival Tennessee." So NewsChannel 5 Investigates put some of his claims to the "truth test" -- and flunked him on several of those claims.


"This is an incredible community with incredible people," Las Vegas businessman Dennis Peterson said as he unveiled his plans before reporters and community leaders.


His big announcement of a $750 million entertainment complex for Spring Hill included some big promises:


"We have 80 restaurants coming."

"We have a water park coming in, one of the largest in the United States."

"We have two resort hotels."

"We are contacting the NBA to try and bring an NBA team here."

"We are going to be building Niagara Falls."

The claims reminded some folks of another man's big promises.


In the film "The Music Man," Professor Harold Hill promised a solution to a problem plaguing the town's youth -- not unlike Dennis Peterson.


"Tennessee has a high meth problem," Peterson said. "Maybe with a park like this with something to do and the staff we have, we can help to solve this problem."


Then there are some of his other claims.


Peterson said, "There are eight corporations. We do film production, animation. We are publishing two music magazines. A lot is coming to Spring Hill."


But the truth is that Peterson's companies never produced the film promised years ago with Michael Jackson.


In 2004, they announced plans to publish two music magazines -- Mainstream Music and Windstorm Christian Music. Neither ever published a single page.


Then, there's the proposed park's name.


"It is called Festival Tennessee," Peterson proudly boasted.


But a check of federal and state trademarks shows no one has bother to lock in the name "Festival Tennessee."


"How would you like to spend millions of dollars and then have someone open up another competing business across the street using your same name?" asked veteran attorney Gary Blackburn. "You would expect anyone spending three quarters of a billion dollars to do their due diligence, part of which would be to protect the name of the company."


Then there's a little problem of access.


Peterson says his park will open Thanksgiving of next year, but the only way to get from I-65 is a narrow, two-lane road -- and an exit is miles away.


"Obviously, we won't be able to serve a development like this on a road like Jim Warren Road," Spring Hill Mayor Michael Dinwiddie said at the announcement.


But the Tennessee Department of Transportation says no one has ever contacted them about building an exit. It's a process that takes years and costs millions of dollars.


TDOT spokesperson BJ Doughty said, "New interchanges are fairly complicated. The first step would be a lengthy 'Interchange Justification Study', that would eventually have to be approved by the Federal Highway Administration. That would have to occur before any environmental impact studies, design, right of way acquisition, or construction. And obviously, there would have to be funding available for all of the above."


Peterson also claims to have been in contact about bring an National Basketball Association team to Spring Hill.


But an NBA spokesman tells NewsChannel 5 that "we have not been contacted."


In "The Music Man," Professor Hill did deliver on his promises. The question is: Will Dennis Peterson be able to do the same?


The NewsChannel 5 Investigates team also uncovered an eviction lawsuit that sought to have Peterson and his company evicted last summer from a small farm in Palm Beach County, Florida -- apparently because he wasn't paying the $8,000 a month in rent.


He filed a letter with a judge, asking that he be given time to move to Nashville.


E-mail: pwilliams@newschannel5.com

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"Obviously, we won't be able to serve a development like this on a road like Jim Warren Road," Spring Hill Mayor Michael Dinwiddie said at the announcement.


But the Tennessee Department of Transportation says no one has ever contacted them about building an exit. It's a process that takes years and costs millions of dollars.step would be a lengthy 'Interchange Justification Study', that would eventually have to be approved by the Federal Highway Administration. That would have to occur before any environmental impact studies, design, right of way acquisition, or construction. And obviously, there would have to be funding available for all of the above."


Since I work for TDOT as a roadway designer, let me tell you that this statement is absolutely true! There is no way that an exit will be built in 18 months. It would probably take a minimum of 5 years and that would be with a politician pushing the project. Now as far as the local road goes, that has nothing to do with TDOT. If the county was behind the project they would be the ones to widen the road.


After saying all this, this guy makes the Hard Rock Park/Freestyle Park guys look like business masterminds!

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The Spring Hill planning commission had a meeting last night about the land zoning...




The developer who last week announced plans to build a theme park in Spring Hill may not get the kind of zoning he’s asking for.


The Spring Hill Planning Commission met Monday night and discussed a zoning option its members think will better protect the city if the developer’s plan fails to materialize.

Channel 4 News reported last week that Dennis Peterson, the man behind the project, has some skeletons in his closet. Peterson’s company, which is based in Las Vegas, had its business licenses revoked, and he was evicted last year from a rental property, among other problems.


The revelations caused the Planning Commission to move more cautiously with Peterson’s request to rezone the Spring Hill land he reportedly has a contract to buy. Peterson announced March 2 he plans to invest $750 million into a theme park with two resort hotels, 80 restaurants, a TV studio, a charter school, a skate park and a rehab center for disadvantaged youths.


The Spring Hill Planning Commission alluded to the new revelations about Peterson’s past at its meeting Monday and heard concerns from residents. "He wants to open this by November 2012. Nothing about this is believable,” said Steve Clark, who lives across the street from the proposed project. "We're the laughing stock of the United States," said Carolyn Clark. “It sounds like he made this stuff up as he went along.” The Planning Commission discussed changing the type of zoning Peterson is requesting. He wants B-4, which is a commercial zoning with virtually no restrictions.


If Peterson doesn’t build a theme park, the land could end up with anything from an industrial plant to a landfill. The commissioners instead discussed substituting a planned unit development overlay for the zoning. That would require the land owner to build only what he promised to build. Detailed plans would have to be submitted in advance.


Mike Dinwiddie, Spring Hill’s mayor, said that would protect the city in the event the land is flipped or the landowner really intends to use the land for some other purpose.

At the same time, that type of zoning would allow Peterson’s company to build what he said he intends to build. "It allows them to go forward. If it does, it's wonderful news for us. But at the same time, it also protects the city," Dinwiddie said.


Michael Glass, chairman of the zoning commission, said he thinks the plan makes sense and gives the city more control. "It's a lot better on the city's behalf than just giving them a straight zoning and saying, ‘More power to you,’” Glass said.


The planning commission did not vote at Monday’s meeting. It is scheduled to vote March 14. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. at Spring Hill city hall.


ADMIN EDIT: I went ahead and quoted the story so people wouldn't have to jump to see it. Thanks for sharing this with us!

Edited by jedimaster1227
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It's a shame that this doesn't appear like it's going to get off the ground. I from my Nashville area friends that there's still a huge desire and longing for the Opryland USA days. I think if the right people were put in place, the area could easily support a modest-sized park.


EDIT: And hey, the Grizzlies are having a pretty good season! But we definitely don't need another NBA team that close.

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More red flags about the Festival Tennessee developer:




SPRING HILL, Tenn. -- The developer who announced plans to build a theme park in Spring Hill had previously planned one in Las Vegas. A woman who invested in that project is now warning others not to make the same mistake she did.


"It was stupid," said Daneta Giordano. "It was too good to be true."


Giordano is a real estate agent in Las Vegas. In 2004, she was introduced to Dennis Peterson, who said he was looking for investors for a theme park outside of the city.


Giordano invested $75,000 with Peterson -- money she never saw again.


"He kept saying, 'It's still coming together. I'm still working on it.' Then he just disappeared,” Giordano said.


A copy of their contract is part of a court file in Las Vegas. The contract says that Peterson would turn Giordano’s $75,000 investment into $200,000 in one year.


"I got scammed. There's people out there that do it to elderly. Unfortunately, he did it to a single mother of five," Giordano told Channel 4 News.


Peterson wrote Giordano a check for $200,000 but it was no good. Giordano sued and won, but never collected what Peterson owed her.


Now, Peterson is planning a $750-million theme park and complex for Spring Hill. He said he has the investors lined up but won't say who they are.


Giordano said she has some advice to potential investors: Make sure to check his financial statements.


"Definitely don't write any checks to him, and definitely have a trust account or some account where his hands aren't on it," she said.


Peterson is asking the Spring Hill Planning Commission to rezone the tract of land where he wants to build his theme park. Planning commissioners will hear the case at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

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Not much new to report, but the Spring Hill planning commissioners will vote tonight on a zoning ordinance for the proposed theme park:




SPRING HILL, Tenn. -- Spring Hill's city leaders are facing a big decision about the plan for a new large-scale theme park. Planning commissioners will vote Monday night on a zoning ordinance.


The developer wants an open zoning policy that would allow him to build almost anything on the property.


However, some local lawmakers told Channel 4’s news partners at the Columbia Daily Herald that they would rather zone the land for a specific project so the land isn’t misused.


Developers said they want to build an attraction called Festival Tennessee that would feature rides, restaurants, a shopping center and hotels.

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Following up on this story from yesterday, the city planning commissioners voted to recommend the land zoning change in the meeting last night:






Commissioners in Spring Hill are moving ahead with plans for a new theme park.


The city planning commission voted Monday night to recommend a zoning change for the proposed Festival Tennessee.


The move would make the land for the theme park a commercial zone under two conditions. One condition is that the land actually be used for a theme park. The other is that developers submit their plans within a year.


If this doesn't happen, the land would go back to its original zoning use.


The planning commission's recommendation will be reviewed by the City Council, which will make the final zoning decision in a few weeks.

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And the story continues to go beyond the farcical...






The developer of the proposed Festival Tennessee theme park used his failed movie projects and his connection to dead celebrities to sell himself to the mayor of Spring Hill, e-mails and public records obtained by the Channel 4 I-Team show.


The records show the city of Spring Hill paid $445 to fly the Mayor Michael Dinwiddie to Orlando on Feb. 4 so he could meet with Dennis Peterson so the developer could verify he was indeed working with another company to create the theme park.


But the Channel 4 I-Team found that wasn't the only way Peterson tried to sell his project to Dinwiddie.


The e-mails show Peterson sent Dinwiddie television scripts and movie projects he had written.


Among the projects submitted was a movie about a unicorn that Peterson claimed had once drawn the attention of Christina Aguilera, Celine Dion and Sting.


That project was obviously old, because two of the celebrities who had already signed on to voice characters are now dead. Peterson even sent the mayor Michael Jackson's supposed signature to indicate that the King of Pop was once on board.


Even Dinwiddie was a little surprised to receive all the movie and television projects.


"To be quite honest, I don't know why I was sent the movie script. I dismissed it out of hand. It doesn't have anything to do with this theme park," Dinwiddie said.


"Any idea why they sent it to you?" asked Channel 4 chief investigative reporter Jeremy Finley.


"Maybe it was just to validate some of the things they had said," Dinwiddie said.


But the Channel 4 I-Team and other media outlets have already reported that the unicorn movie, and all of the other projects Peterson submitted, have never been completed.


The records show that Peterson also submitted Coca-Cola has signed on to a sponsorship agreement at Peterson's proposed Las Vegas Theme Park as well as Festival Tennessee.


But that contract was written and signed on October 2000 and expired years later.


"He (Peterson) said he's been working on it for several years -- and he's just now ready to move forward with it," Dinwiddie said.


The e-mails obtained by the I-Team also show Alderwoman Amy Wurth wrote to a constituent that she was upset that none of the information had ever been shared with them and that she had serious doubts about the park.


Wurth also e-mailed the city's administrator to ask if a background check had ever been done on Peterson.


City Administrator Victor Lay responded by writing that the city's attorney advised them not to because that was not something that was conducted on other developers.


Dinwiddie said he insisted that Peterson's company not pay for anything on his trip to Orlando. Dinwiddie said that while the city paid for the flight, he paid for his hotel and everything else.


Peterson has not returned any of our repeated calls for comment.


The I-Team obtained the e-mails and a series of documents through the Tennessee Open Records Act.

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It turns out an executive for the project is a sex offender.


There are more red flags when it comes to the Festival Tennessee theme park. It turns out one of the top executives on the project is a sex offender who has spent time in prison.


He isn't supposed to be anywhere near children, yet he's a key player in developing a family theme park. Those close to the project, including a town mayor, never knew.


Since Spring Hill's announcement of a new theme park, Channel 4 News has reported several other failed projects and the questionable background behind the park's developer, Dennis Peterson.


Now a company executive who is a sex offender is raising even more questions.


Thomas Maierle is a registered sex offender in Michigan. He was charged and convicted in 2006 for having sexually abusive material involving children.


“As best of my knowledge, he's the chief financial officer with Big Entertainment Group,” said Spring Hill Planning Commission Chairman Michael Glass.


Maierle is involved with the company building Festival Tennessee, a proposed theme park to be built on Jim Warren Road in Spring Hill. It is a park that would attract thousands of children.


John Cordell, a spokesman with the Michigan Department of Corrections, said Wednesday, “If he were operating the theme park where children were there and readily available to this individual on a daily basis, there would be an area of significant concern.”


Maierle spent nearly two years in prison in Michigan and is currently on parole until May 19, which means he has a long list of conditions to abide by, including no contact with children.


He also isn't allowed to travel outside Michigan or own a computer or any other device capable of connecting to the Internet.


Spring Hill Mayor Michael Dinwiddie said by phone Wednesday that he had no idea about Maierle's past.


Spring Hill resident Gary Haydel said he feels the company and its operators should have gone through background checks.


“If I was the mayor of this city, on anything approached to me, I would contact my local sheriff, run it through the FBI and had a background check done. It’s very easy to do and the man should have did it to begin with,” said Haydel.


Glass said this is yet another red flag that the city should not ignore.


“Which is all the more reason we need to take this through the proper processes because if you are allowing individuals of any kind much less some that have sketchy backgrounds, or possibly sketchy backgrounds, I would like to put in all the protections that we can at the city level,” said Glass.


The Michigan State Department of Corrections is aware of Maierle's involvement with Festival Tennessee and said Wednesday that as of last week, he has not violated any of the terms of his parole.


Maierle and Peterson did not return Channel 4's calls.


Spring Hill's Board of Aldermen will be voting on April 18 on how to zone the land for the Festival Tennessee project.


Just four days before that crucial vote, an election could shakeup the entire structure of the board. Currently there are nine aldermen, including the mayor. Two are in a race for re-election: Bruce Hull and Eliot Mitchell. One current alderman is leaving, and a candidate is running unopposed for his seat.


The new aldermen will be sworn in right before the April 18 meeting where they are set to vote on Festival Tennessee's zoning request.



News video at linked page.

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