Support the Williamson County Land Use Plan

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Contact Mayor Rogers Anderson, County Commissioners and the Planning Commission to THANK THEM for Adopting the Plan

 

UPDATE:  Historic Votes in early March 2020!

County Commission Votes to Endorse the Plan at Monday’s meeting:  20-1!   (March 9, 2020)

Planning Commission Votes 8-2 to Adopt the Plan(March 12, 2020)

Press on Planning Commission Vote:  TennesseanWilliamson Herald

Send an email to your elected officials THANKING them for their time, effort and leadership.  It matters!

1. Email the Planning Commissioners via planningcommission@williamsoncounty-tn.gov.  If you own sizable property, let them know.  

2. Find your TWO Williamson County Commissioners here. Not sure of your district? See this voting district map to find your commissioners.

3. Send the same email you sent to the Planning Commission to both of your County Commissioners and to Mayor Rogers Anderson countymayor@williamsoncounty-tn.gov.

Call to action February 27, 2020:

Attend the County Commission and Planning Commission meetings on:  March 9, 2020 at 7 pm and March 12, 2020 at 5:30 pm in the auditorium of the Williamson County Administrative Complex, 1320 W. Main Street, Franklin, TN 37064.

Your voice and your presence at the upcoming meetings matter!   

Key documents:

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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.

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Background:

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). 

This has resulted is a dramatic loss of 260,000 acres of farmland since 2002 across the 10 counties (see this report and details on our blog). 

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. 

Williamson County, TN, Residential Growth Patterns, 2000-2018. The purple areas, especially in the eastern part of the county show how much of the new residential growth has not been in the cities as the 2007 Plan intended.
Williamson County, “Business as Usual”.Map shows 82,700 new homes across the the Southeastern and Northwestern areas of the County without adopting the new Williamson 2040 Plan.

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:

  • Overstate the income of people to the county, thus inflating tax revenues from growth.
  • Ignore the costs of growth (while looking only at the “benefits” of growth), such as-
    • Congestion
    • Sprawl
    • Higher housing prices
    • Stormwater / flooding / water quality issues
  • Don’t factor in decreases in tourism due to degradation of the rural character of the County.

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:

  • Over $63.2 million annually in total health-related cost savings.
  • $350.6 million in annual cost savings and economic benefits through the provision of vital services such as:  water supply, water quality, flood mitigation, wildlife habitat, pollination, air pollution removal, and carbon sequestration.
  • Over $367 million in annual revenue from agriculture and forestry, which supports over 2,800 jobs.
  • Generates $692.8 million in tourist output, many of whom come to enjoy the beauty of our open spaces and rural lifestyle, which supports 3,000 jobs in the County.
  • Increases in the total value of the housing stock in Williamson County by $1.15 billion.

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:  

  • Create a task force to develop an agricultural protection program
  • Update conservation subdivision regulations
  • Enhancing and maintaining meaningful urban growth boundaries between the cities and county and agreements needed for regional financing of infrastructure needs

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:

  • Supporting local farm-to-table programs
  • Providing offsets / payments to farmers for enhancing our area and providing necessary services
  • Requiring that efforts to mitigate the effects of development be done locally, with fair payments for mitigation efforts

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