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Old Hillsboro Road: Rural preservation versus residential growth spurs debate

The Lynches moved into their farm home in 1961, which was once part of the Forest Home area. Chuck Lynch said that the home could date back before tax records. His family has carefully maintained the home he said. 

Chuck Lynch has lived at 1617 Old Hillsboro Road for 52 years.

The winding grassy corridor of Old Hillsboro Road reveals pristine farmland at every turn with homes gently resting on large, rolling acres marked by historic footprints along the way.

The road, which connects Hillsboro Road to Highway 96 W and eventually leads to Leiper’s Fork, also connects with Old Natchez Trace Road, one that dates back to the early 1800s.

Many consider Old Hillsboro Road a natural display of the rural beauty found in Williamson County, which should be handled with care, especially where development is concerned.

A proposed development called Hillsboro Cove consists of 20 single-family lots, located on an approximately 34-acre parcel on the east side of Old Hillsboro Road, near Del Rio Pike. This project has spurred debate and stirred emotions among residents and community leaders.

Although the current zoning for the land– Rural Preservation-1 –allows up to one dwelling unit per acre, some believe this ratio creates a residential density too high for the area.

 “It’s incongruous to the area,” said Williamson County Commissioner Mary Brockman, District 9, who lives on a farm on Old Hillsboro Road. “I hate to see this change become the norm.”

“There’s nothing wrong with one-acre lots. This (proposed development) is a square peg in a round whole,” Brockman continued. “The Hidden River development has at least three to five, and seven and eight acres (per home). On Del Rio, Two Rivers has about seven, eight, nine and ten acres (per home).”

Although the property has been zoned one-acre since the late 1980s, Brockman said that she would prefer the five-acre zoning currently in place on the west side of Old Hillsboro Road be applied to both sides of the road.

She said she believes more research should be conducted before moving forward on this project.

“I would prefer to defer the plans until more information was gathered regarding traffic, storm water, and the floodplain map,” Brockman said.

Although no public hearings are required because no rezoning of the property is taking place, concerned citizens have raised their voices about the nature of the development.

“Technically the plan seems to meet regulations, but there are many significant questions and problems remaining,” Lynch’s neighbor Mary Wade stated in a letter sent to planning commissioners over a week ago. “Just because such a development can be done, the question remains should it be done.”

Also, some in opposition worry that the floodplain line runs too close to the back of the proposed subdivision; that increased traffic could mean a busier more dangerous road and that the development could threaten rural preservation in the area.
“It backs up to the Harpeth River at the Meeting of the Waters [where the West Harpeth and Main Harpeth meet]. It’s a huge flood plain area where the river holds water,” said Dorie Bolze, executive director of Harpeth River Watershed Association and a member of the county’s Storm Water Appeals Board.

“The new federal flood- plain map will not be out until 2014. They are updating the map for the entire Harpeth River. Lines could change. You are pushing the envelope when you develop this close.”

Some even argue that the proposed development is inconsistent with the Williamson County Land Use Plan, a document created in 2007 that addresses the concept of rural preservation.

“A preliminary goal of rural preservation seems to be preserving open space and encouraging agricultural and equestrian use of the land,” Bolze said.

According to Williamson County Planning Director Mike Matteson, AICP, the proposed development is consistent with the zoning plan for the area.

The site of the proposed development is owned by lifelong Williamson County resident Chuck Lynch, who has resided in his family home for about the last 52 years. Since the age of four, Lynch spent his childhood in the home, attended Grassland Elementary, “now Benton Hall,” and graduated from Franklin High School.

On Tuesday morning, Lynch wore a Franklin High School t-shirt while he mowed his front yard, adjacent to the scenic road, which he said has grown over the past five decades.

Lynch remembers when Old Hillsboro Road was gravel and his family’s home was only one of eight on the road. “I learned how to drive a tractor here when I was six years old.”

“Traffic has really increased since Westhaven was built,” Lynch said as a steady stream of cars sped by his property.
About 40 acres surround the home his family moved into in 1961. Lynch’s father, Charles K. Lynch, was an air traffic controller, who sought out the picturesque plot of land, seeking refuge from the intrusive noise of aviation in Donelson where the family previously lived.

“This was my father’s retreat. He wanted quiet. That’s why we moved out here,” Lynch said.

His memories include the surrounding pasture where 40 cows—his “father’s pets”—grazed. A soybean farmer now rents the land that the elder Lynch enjoyed before his death in 1992.

After Chuck Lynch’s mother, Mary Schrader Lynch, died in December of 2011, he placed the home on the market in February 2012, in order to settle the estate.

“It’s just time to move on,” he said earlier this week.

More than a year passed with no one expressing interest in the property, then Lynch said Hillsboro Development, LLC approached him.

“They were the only ones who were interested in the property after over a year on the market.”

The property, currently under contract, has not closed.

Lynch believes his home predates available tax records and may even date back to the 1820s. The property even contains the stone remnants of the platform that farmers used to weigh their produce in the early 1900s.

About 30 commercial videos have been shot on the land, Lynch explained. From cars to country music, the property has been the site of commercial videos because of its sprawling, rural beauty and the old red barn near the rear of the site.

Lynch said that he had enjoyed the land. “I can see fireworks from about six different locations from my backyard,” he said.

 “I want to share this land with others,” Lynch said. “I think the development will provide a community feel and a feel of open space. Williamson County is growing and where are the people going to go? People have a right to build and live here.”
“Nothing that is being done is illegal or against regulations.”

“(The opposition) says that we are proposing to do to them what they’ve already done to us,” Lynch said.

He said he has experienced the community’s growth over the years. “We have never opposed a development in 52 years,” he said.

“Many people move to Williamson County, but once they are here, they want it to stay the same as when they moved here. Why not let people enjoy this piece of land?”

Meanwhile, Brockman has voiced her concern.

“I’m not against anyone’s right to sell their land, but this development doesn’t fit…I wouldn’t want to see (the area) suburbanized,” Brockman said.

The development is in the preliminary plat stage and under the consideration of the Williamson County Municipal Planning Commission. Commissioners reviewed the concept plan in June. Tonight commissioners will review and vote on the preliminary plat.

The Herald attempted to reach the applicant of record, Hillsboro Development, LLC, 415 Main Street, but at press time calls had not been returned.

“It’s important to voice concerns now before the final plat is devised,” Bolze said.

Once his land is sold, Lynch says he might reside in a small house in Williamson County until he decides where to spend the next phase of his life.

“Leaving will be bittersweet,” Lynch said. “I will miss the open space.”

Posted on: 8/7/2013


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