Now is the time to get involved in the community, according to Franklin Mayor Ken Moore and Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson, as the city and county governments are in the process of updating their plans for growth and development for the upcoming decades.
The Franklin Tomorrow Breakfast with the Mayors event Tuesday featured both mayors, along with Williamson County Planning Director Mike Matteson, Franklin Assistant Director of Planning and Sustainability Kelly Dannenfelser and President and CEO of The Land Trust for Tennessee Liz McLaurin, presenting the current plans for handling population growth, particularly in the unincorporated areas of the county, and ways citizens can give their input.
“It is so important that you attend (meetings) and make your comments,” Anderson said. “We have over 60% of our land that’s still not being developed. And personally, I would like to see that land stay undeveloped or developed in the way that you want. … Our unincorporated area is very important to us and to our children and to our grandchildren.”
Moore mentioned that citizens in Franklin can get involved in projects such as the South Corridor Study, which is working to develop a transportation plan in Davidson, Williamson and Maury counties as they experience major population booms over the next decade.
He said, for this particular study, residents should mark their calendars for another phase of public meetings on Aug. 27 and 28. More information on the South Corridor Study can be found at southcorridor.org.
How growth will affect the unincorporated county
Matteson summarized the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, which was adopted in 2007 and outlines a plan for growth and development in rural Williamson County, explaining some of the issues faced 12 years later as the area prepares for a doubling of population by 2040.
Originally, expansion was meant to primarily remain within the urban growth boundaries, which are extended areas around the county municipalities. However, residential development has spread all throughout the county since 2007, which led county planners to a “fork in the road:” continue to evenly distribute development throughout the county, or reign future growth back into the urban growth boundaries to preserve rural character.
“We should be extremely proud of the character that we have here in Williamson County,” Matteson said. “I think that the quality of our environment is one of those intangible things that really helps to draw people here. They come, of course, for the jobs and the thriving economy. They come because of our excellent schools. But, I really do think that the quality of the community from a character standpoint really aids in that.”
Matteson said the biggest community concerns about spreading development outside the urban growth boundaries are the loss of the rural landscape, increased traffic and pressure on the schools. Generally, the population wants to preserve open space.
Because the updates to the comprehensive plan are not finalized, he implored citizens to get involved in the process and voice their preferences for development before it’s too late.
“I would encourage you to not wait until you start to see things that maybe you don’t like to get involved because, frankly, by then it’s often too late, and really, those things that you may not like are probably consistent with the comprehensive plan,” Matteson said. “So instead, I would encourage you to go ahead and get involved early on and actually help shape the policies that will result in the community that we have in 10, 15, 20 years.”
County residents can visit williamson2040.org for more information on the Comprehensive Land Use Plan and how to get involved.
What about the city?
For the city of Franklin, Dannenfelser gave an overview of Envision Franklin and updates to the zoning ordinance, explaining that Franklin, too, is about to go through a lot of changes.
She explained that Envision Franklin gives a look at how the city will look in the future through different design concepts.
“(It holds) recommendations on land use and building form and site design,” Dannenfelser said. “It spans from regional commerce, which is along the interstate, along 65, and it’s where the intensity should be. It recommends walkable, mixed-use, taller buildings where our infrastructure is most robust.”
She said it’s important to receive input from the public concerning these documents, particularly as the updated zoning ordinance is planned to take effect early next year following finalization and approval.
“Zoning can produce cherished open spaces with tree canopy and shade and sidewalks that are enjoyed for generations,” Dannenfelser said. “It can also produce leftover open space, … where it doesn’t look well-used, it doesn’t look well-loved. It looks pretty barren.”
She said citizens can share their input for the future of Franklin at an open house meeting at City Hall on Aug. 15 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Open space planning could be one solution
Finally, McLaurin shared a little bit about The Land Trust for Tennessee and their role in rural preservation.
The land trust is responsible for the conservation of pieces of land donated by their owners.
“In Williamson County, we protect nearly 7,000 acres through 60 projects, so it is our largest concentration,” McLaurin said. “Just imagine the generosity of so many landowners who have donated conservation easements, meaning donating their development rights to the land trust that we then distinguish, and then we have the perpetual responsibility of monitoring those conservation easements each year.”
Among these properties is the recently donated, 245-acre Peacock Hill Nature Park in College Grove, which will soon become available to the public for hiking, fishing and general enjoyment of the outdoors.
McLaurin explained that one option for rural preservation is to construct an open space plan as other counties, such as Davidson, have done. But no matter the method, she encouraged citizens to share their vision for the county with their public officials.
“Think about what you want your community to look like,” McLaurin said. “Where do you want your grandchildren to grow up? Think about that, and please do be involved in the whole process.”
To keep up with these plans as they are updated and to find more ways to get involved, visit your local government website and look for upcoming meetings.
“I hope that you see that you need to be involved in setting the future and character of our community, and there are many ways you can do that,” said Executive Director of Franklin Tomorrow Mindy Tate.
The next Breakfast with the Mayors event will be Nov. 5. For more information, visit franklintomorrow.org.