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Hillsboro Cove design approved

Impassioned landowners residing on the northwest side of the county filled almost every seat in the 222-capacity county auditorium last night awaiting decisions that could affect their properties for years to come.

With many residents concerned about the development on Old Hillsboro Road, Bob Parks Realty released a statement regarding the nature of the proposed Hillsboro Cove. The preliminary plat for the development was approved last night by the county planning commission.

Bob Park’s spokesperson:

“Hillsboro Cove will be built with several sensitive design elements to set it apart from other communities. The existing home on Old Hillsboro Road [property-owner Chuck Lynch’s home] will be kept along with its accompanying barn and large mature trees protecting the existing view shed people have come to enjoy.

Nineteen estate homes will be tucked back in the community with the first homes being set back 300-500 feet from the entrance. We were able to accomplish this by setting aside 25 percent of the community as open space at the entrance and along the Harpeth River helping to protect the view shed and natural resources. This results in Hillsboro Cove being one of the first communities in Williamson County designed to meet the new storm water run off standards.”

The county planning commission voted to approve the preliminary designs plans for the controversial Hillsboro Cove and approved the rezoning of about 30 individual properties in the area.

Some say the subdivision – consisting of 20 homes to be built on 34 acres located off scenic Old Hillsboro Road – could erode the rural landscape in the area and encourage a “domino effect” of suburban development.

“I am relieved,” said Chuck Lynch, property owner of the land that could be the future site of Hillsboro Cove. His family resided on the farmland for about five decades.

“I am glad that the fight is over. I now hope that the neighborhood can heal and get this behind us.”

Over the past several months, the proposed development fueled much debate, leading to heated emotions between landowners concerning suburban growth, rural preservation and landowners’ rights.

Residents have also argued that the development will garner more traffic on an already highly-travelled road and would be built too close to an area called Meeting of the Waters. Over the years, this area where the Harpeth and West Harpeth rivers meet has frequently flooded.

“I think that people should be able do whatever they want to do with their property. For fifty-two years, I haven’t told anyone what to do with their’s, and I’m not going to start now,” Lynch previously reported to the Herald.

Many residents voiced their belief that the development threatens the preservation of the area’s natural beauty cherished by locals as well as people around the world who visit Franklin.

Despite resident pleas, the planning commission staff insisted that development plans abide by all county rules and regulations, thus rendering no reasonable dispute against the development from the county.

“If this is not approved, it could mean a trip to the courthouse,” John Lackey, planning commission chairman said.
Ultimately, the commission voted in favor of the preliminary design plans for the development – it’s first step in coming to fruition.

Rezoning approved for parts of Old Hillsboro Road
On a related issue, the planning commission voted to rezone about 30 platted pieces of property from one-acre density to five-acre density lots on the east side of Old Hillsboro Road.

Property owner Chuck Lynch, who owns land where Hillsboro Cove could be built, and Commissioner Mary Brockman, who owns a farm on Old Hillsboro Road, convene after the planning commission meeting last night. Both achieved some victories for properties in question.
About 10 residents fervently spoke during the public hearing in favor of rezoning the plats of land to Rural Preservation-5 (RP-5, or five-acre density) in order to preserve the pastoral, beauty of the land and hinder any developments inconsistent with rural preservation. Some landowners even stated that they weren’t aware that their property was not zoned for RP-5. 

“We don’t have tall mountains or sandy beaches, but our rural landscape is our natural resource. There are some who would kill to still have this,” said resident Steve King of Old Hillsboro Road.

“I am blessed to live next to a historic home built in 1809 at Meeting of the Waters,” Todd Kaestner said. “Everyday I see tourists stop to take pictures of horses, sunsets, hay bales and barns … bucolic areas are only developed once, and then they are gone forever.”

County Commissioner Mary Brockman a vocal proponent of rezoning who led the initiative cited that five-acre density was more consistent with the county’s Land Use Plan. “Property owners are galvanized here in support. Some might ask why wasn’t this done during the zoning ordinance update. But at the time, there was no political will to alter any density in any area that had been forged so long ago. So, it didn’t gain any momentum. Now there is traction.”

Because all 30 residents signed a petition supporting the rezoning, the commission voted to approve the request.

Red zones stop further rezoning decisions
On a second rezoning request for additional properties on Old Hillsboro to be rezoned to five-acre density, the planning commission voted against the measure.

Lifelong county resident Chuck Lynch currently owns the property where Old Hillsboro Cove would be built, which has been in his family since 1961. Photos by Kerri Bartlett
On a map shown by planning staff, one-acre density plats highlighted in red symbolized landowners who had not signed a petition for RP-5. Yellow marked the color for landowners who signed a petition after the cut-off date for the planning meeting.
However, both were considered for rezoning the plats to five-acre density lots.

Brockman said that she thought that a majority’s consent was required to rezone an area, but later learned that the county process was different.

Some commissioners voiced their belief that no rezoning should be considered for those plats marked red whose owners had not signed a petition.

Some commissioners expressed their view that those property owners should be notified properly and give their approval before any rezoning is adopted regarding their land.

“I’m glad that property owners in support are allowed to down zone, but I don’t support anyone being forced to down zone without his or her consent, so I can’t support this initiative,” Planning Commissioner Susan Fisher said.

John Lackey, chairman of the planning commission agreed.

Planning Commissioner Robin Baldree also agreed and gave a similar example of development at her neighbor’s 90-acre farm. “It was their choice to sell their land to be developed. They had been there a long time and that was their choice, and I supported that,” she said.

Grassland resident Michael Myers said that aging property owners might not be able to care for vast acres anymore and should be given the choice to sell their land for development as well as not forced into rezoning.

“For years, they [farmers with large acres] have given us this for free with people driving by to look at the natural product of their labor. And even after that, we ask for more [rezoning] of them,” Myers said.

Lackey suggested that property owners come to the planning commission next month for a public hearing to voice their views on rezoning.

Also, some landowners complained that zoning should be the same on each side of Old Hillsboro Road, voicing their opposition to “spot-zoning.”

However, Lackey reminded landowners that any “spot-zoning” would be a product of their own decisions.

“Remember you are the spot-zoners. They are not changing their zoning, you are,” he said.

Ultimately, the planning commission voted against the rezoning request but recommended a public hearing in October.
Preservationists ponder next step

Although preliminary designs of the development passed, which Brockman adamantly opposed, some victory was achieved by the first rezoning approval, she said. However, more work will have to be done for more one-acre density plats in the area to be approved for rezoning.

“I guess I will have to get more signatures, educate, tell them [landowners] their options, and let them know if they want the ordinance to pass to sign the petition,” Brockman said in an interview after the meeting.

The final plans for Hillsboro Cove will continue to be reviewed by the planning commission at future meetings.

Posted on: 9/13/2013


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