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Amendment broadens restrictive commercial zoning in rural areas

Williamson County Commissioners listened to pointed concerns from citizens ahead of a vote Monday night that would broaden restrictive zoning regulations set to go into effect January.

In May, the body passed an ordinance to limit the size of new commercial structures to a maximum of 5,000 square feet in parts of the county designated as “hamlets.” The size restriction was designed to allow for “mom-and-pop” restaurants, shops, and commercial ventures while preventing so-called “big box” retailers from redefining the communities' characters. The amendment will link the maximum square footage of new commercial structures to the acreage it is built upon – up to 5,000 square feet on 1 acre, up to 10,000 square feet on a property up to 10 acres, and 15,000 square feet on more than 10 acres.

“We would like for these buildings to stay small and not get any bigger. I pray for that all the time,” said one of the nine people who spoke during Tuesday's public hearing. “I ask that you please don't ‘pave paradise and put up a parking lot.’”

She was not the only speaker who referenced Joni Mitchell's “Big Yellow Taxi.”

“They've already paved paradise,” said another. “I own 25 acres, and I oppose the planning commission's recommendation [to keep commercial structures small]. To me, this debate comes down to property rights.”

Seven other people addressed the commission, some championing the bucolic countryside that defines much of the southern part of the county, others favoring commercial and economic development.

“We have [375 acres] that have been in my mom's family for five or six generations,” said the last person to speak during the public hearing. “We would like to have the opportunity to sell like the did at the Cool Springs [Galleria] area. Those people made a lot of money, and we would like to have that same opportunity.”

The commissioners discussed the amendment at length before passing it 19-1, with Commissioner Dwight Jones the lone “no” vote, and Rickey Jones abstaining. Commissioners Travis Hawkins, Steve Smith, and Cheryl Wilson were absent from the meeting.

Some lawmakers said that the solution might be to eliminate the phrase “hamlet” from the county's zoning lexicon, which could afford the smaller communities to determine its zoning restrictions on a case-by-case basis, an allowance afforded the larger communities in the county. While implementing such a compromise might be possible, it is not prior to the new law going into effect in January – there simply is not enough time for county attorney to write the resolution, publicize it, then hold the public hearings necessary before a vote could take place. Although the commissioners voted to expand the limitations of the original ordinance, several indicated interest in revisiting the topic.

“I don't think this is done yet, and land rights are at stake,” said Commissioner Kathy Danner. “I think it's really unfair that villages get a custom treatment then we take a one-size-fits-all for hamlets.”

Meningitis Outbreak

Becky Brumley, director of Williamson County Health Department, said the Tennessee Department of Health is “working very closely with the Center for Disease Control on this outbreak of meningitis.” Brumley said that three clinics provided the infected steroids to patients in Tennessee – none of which are in Williamson County.

“There is not ongoing exposure, [but] there is ongoing risk,” Brumley said. “If someone has had that injection, they need to check with their healthcare provider immediately if they have fever, headache, stiff neck, or anything out of the ordinary.”

Mayor reappoints committee members

County Mayor Rogers Anderson reappointed members to two committees: Betsy Crossley, Robert Ring, and Gayle Moyer Harris to the Economic Development Council; and Steve Wherley, Ricky Jones, and Tom Murdic to the Municipal Solid Waste Board.

Honoring an education pioneer, Holocaust survivor

County Mayor Anderson issued a proclamation honoring Inge Meyring Smith, which he read at the top of monthly meeting. Smith and her father fled the Holocaust in 1938, leaving her hometown of Dresden, Germany, for New York City shortly after she had been expelled from school for being a Jew. Smith studied at Washington Irving High School in Manhattan, and later met and married Paul Smith, a farmer from West Tennessee.

“When my husband told me we were moving to Franklin, Tenn., I said, 'Where's that?' ” Smith said.

Smith earned a BA, an MA, and an EdS, from Peabody College in Nashville. She famously went on to help launch Tennessee’s Head Start program and Franklin’s Harpeth Academy.

“This community took me to their heart, and they raised me and have loved me and shared their children with me,” she said.

A feature-length documentary on her life titled “One of the Miracles: The Inge Meyring Smith Story,” was produced in 2010 (

“We thank her for her great service and her many contributions to the community,” said County Mayor Rogers Anderson.

November meeting

Next month's Williamson County Commission meeting will be held Tuesday, Nov. 13, rather than the second Monday of the month, which is Veterans Day.


Posted on: 10/9/2012


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