Summary Update: March 12, 2020
It was an historic series of votes the first week of March culminating in the Williamson County Planning Commission 8-2 vote to ADOPT the new Williamson2040 Plan after the County Commission 20-1 vote to endorse the Plan earlier that week. Some of the recommendations were 15 years in the making after not being adopted in 2007 with the prior Land Use Plan. (All of this in the midst of the first COVID-19 epidemic confirmed cases in the county.)
Now the hard work truly begins. A key recommendation that is already in motion is for the county and cities to develop agreements that determine the cities' boundaries and coordinate funding for schools, transportation, and agricultural programs in rural areas. Your voice really matters!
Please email or call your county commissioners, Mayor Rogers Anderson, Planning Commission and staff to thank them for all of their hard work and continued leadership as the various recommendations of the plan are developed with public input. Our blog as the email links.
Tennessee’s population is expected to grow by one million by 2040, from approximately 6.8 million in 2018, to 7.8 million in 2040, according to this study. Much of that growth is projected to take place in the 10 counties of Middle Tennessee, and much of that in the Williamson County area. Williamson County is expected to grow by 149% from 2018 to 2045, from 220,000 to 548,000 people (see this report).
While the 2007 Comprehensive Land Use Plan had a key goal to preserve the rural character of Williamson County, analysis of the last 15 years of growth showed “hop scotch” high density development in the eastern part of the rural county (shown in the purple) versus being focused in the yellow areas near the cities as intended. (see June 2019 Planning memo for details.) The new Comprehensive Land Use Plan up for adoption in early March has several key components that are intended to focus the continued growth within our cities, where infrastructure is focused to reduce the real loss of working farms and rural character that is a key component to the economic health of the area. The plan provides maps showing the stark loss of remaining farmland and rural lands if the plan’s proposed changes are not implemented.
Growth such as this does NOT pay for itself (see this news article). Williamson County, as of 2018, was over $650 million in debt, making the County carry the second highest debt load per capita in the state. Concerns are being raised that more debt increases could imperil the County’s credit rating (click here for more info). Because new development does not cover its own costs, Williamson County schools are constantly having to search for more funding, including through such methods as property AND sales tax increases, and imposition of impact fees and privilege taxes (see news article). Recent studies that suggest that growth pays for itself are subject to significant question because they:
Williamson County’s rural lands and open space have real value and increases property values for all County residents. According to a recent study by the University of Tennessee (see additional blog here) open spaces in Williamson County provide:
These benefit flow not only from proximity to forests, wetlands, agricultural lands, shrub-scrub, and developed open space, but also from large residential lots.
The new Plan is not the entire solution to preserving real farmland and addressed growth pressures related to traffic, schools, and sewer infrastructure., but it is an important next step. The new Plan also highlights other key needs that must be addressed to if working farms will be an equal priority in the region. These are:
We support such efforts and are working with city and county leadership in the region to consider additional ways to support rural preservation and our farmers by such things as:
Harpeth Conservancy has a long history of providing expertise working with decision-makers, business leaders, landowners and others to integrate approaches that improve water quality and quality of life into numerous land use plans, local ordinances that shape development design, and more. We worked actively with a county commissioner and over 50 large property owners on the first voluntary down-zoning efforts in the Williamson County in the Harpeth River Valley along Old Hillsboro Road in 2012 (see article here)
Let County leaders know that you support their leadership in developing the new Williamson 2040 Plan! Send and email or call by March 8!
For more information contact, Jim Redwine, Vice President and COO