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Guest Commentary: Writer urges residents to join effort to protect rural landscapes

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The right to petition the government is guaranteed in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.  

A petition is a written instrument directed to some official, legislative body or court in order to redress grievances or request the granting of a favor. There is a petition circulating in Williamson County regarding the issue of density on historic, scenic and culturally significant landscapes and farms.  

Since the turn of the century, county residents have been speaking up advocating for the preservation of our rural landscapes. In 2002, Gov. Don Sundquist signed a proclamation declaring April as Harpeth River Valley Awareness Month.  

In it he states, “This valley is home to a collection of our nation’s historical and architectural treasures, representing Native American settlement of the area, the expansion of our nation along the Natchez Trace, the agricultural heritage of Tennessee.” Also, according to Carroll Van West, senior editor of Tennessee Historical Quarterly, it is “one of the very best, if not the very best, extant corridors of stone wall construction in Tennessee.”

Sundquist’s proclamation went on to encourage Tennesseans to join him in this worthy observance, stating, “Whereas Scenic America, a national conservation organization, acknowledged the unique qualities of this region and the pending threats to the integrity of this landscape by selecting it as one of America’s top 10 ‘last chance landscapes’ and names the Harpeth River Valley as one of the most endangered scenic places in America.”

Many people have been doing more than just observing, they have been joining together across the county to stand up for our rural landscapes.  

They have recognized that residential growth does not pay for itself, but taxpayers pay for it. Our taxes build schools, roads and provide services that are required when intense residential density is put on land that does not have existing infrastructure.  

In March, Williamson County officials passed a land-use plan that reduces the density allowed in unincorporated parts of the county. They did this because they know the economic development engine that has been so successfully fueled by our town-and-country lifestyle needs the “country” part of that lifestyle to survive. 

The county cannot continue to subsidize dense residential growth while the developers reap prolific profits paving over exceptional historic rural landscapes. 

County officials are doing their part to protect our economic development engine and now the city of Franklin must join in preserving and protecting the northwest quadrant of the county from developer driven density.

City officials are being asked to annex the Campbell property. If this annexation of 58 acres is approved, the developer plans to put 157 houses and townhouses between the Gentry century farm and the Short century farm.  

We respectfully request this annexation request be denied. 

Another developer wants to fill floodplain land on Brownland Farm so he can put 800 houses on it.  

I was stranded for days at Old Town on the Old Natchez Trace during the flood of 2010. Houses in existing subdivisions downstream of this proposed intense density were underwater, and that was 10 years ago. The Old Natchez Trace floods frequently now after even a day or two of rain. Where will all that traffic and stormwater go? Where will we build more schools? 

And last but not least, is Westhaven. The Harpeth River Valley was named a “last chance landscape” because of “the pending threats to this landscape” from this dense subdivision. The developer, Southern Land Co., is once again asking for even more density from the current 2,750 units to 3,441 and wants to turn some commercial square footage it cannot rent into even more residential.  

If the city must have more density, it needs to locate it southeast of Gentry Farm.

Please sign the petition (Protect Gentry Farm and Franklin’s Old Historic Charlotte Pike) on Facebook. We respectfully request that annexation and increased density requests on this “last chance landscape” be denied. Taxpayers want rural preservation not density devastation. 

Laura Turner is a member of Citizens for Old Natchez Trace in Franklin.

(1) comment

VictorA

Of course we all want to 'preserve' our 'rural' landscapes, but it's strange how some 'smart' people are either choosing to NOT see the truth or they are ignorant of the facts. Does anyone think we can 'artificially' stop growth? (if so, please start with Williamson Inc. and their tax subsidies & giveaways!) Does anyone think we can 'shut the door' to more transplants to moving here? (Ha, fat chance! WilCo is not a secret anymore!) Anyway, I doubt the effectiveness of either of these utopian type ideals. And, there will be consequences if these type policies are enacted. For instance, think what you want to, but IF county commissioners, approve the new zoning change from RD1 (1 acre lots) to RD5 (5 acre lots) MORE of our 'rural' landscapes will die! Bank on it! 'Book it'! The commission be back in 5 years, revisiting this shortsighted policy! Just watch! I'll be around, will you? The RD1 developments in the eastern portions of the county have saved massive open areas that provide for these pastoral, rural landscape views. No, they are not all perfect, but they are exponentially better than spreading development out on 5 acre home-sites, which may be appropriate for some areas but not all! Williamson2040 paints a radical picture with poor factual data, and plays on the fears of those in traffic jams across the county - very effective. But, why is it that the anti-growthers always paint an apocalyptic view when, all WilCo natives know, that despite the incredible growth of our county over the past 20, 30 even 50 years, we're not in the apocalyptic state they've ALWAYS claimed! In fact, despite traffic, we are better than we've been in a majority of quality of life factors. If 'government' were doing an adequate job, spending impact fees on roads, instead of give-aways to Ramsey Solutions and Lee Company, ad nausea, the one complaint of most of our citizens - traffic would be better, because our infrastructure would be keeping up! The facts are pesky little things and the no-growthers will use anything to stop growth by throwing shiny objects around. They too will have serious consequences.

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