Williamson County’s largest cities and smallest hamlets are taking a look at how and where growth should happen in the future as they implement the Williamson 2040 Comprehensive Land Use Plan approved by the county commission last year.
One of the first steps may be updating a state mandated growth plan implemented more than 20 years ago, which included the formation Urban Growth Boundaries.
The growth plan was set back in 2000 and hasn’t been updated despite the county’s population growing 46% between then and 2019, according to the U.S. Census. And the growth isn’t going away.
The Williamson 2040 plan predicts the county’s population will reach over 530,000 by that year.
While implementing the 2040 plan is projected to take at least five years, the county aims to have a growth management framework completed within the first two years.
“A growth plan helps us to better plan our future and utilize dollars the best way we can,” County Mayor Rogers Anderson said.
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Some municipalities, like Thompson’s Station and Franklin, have called introductory public meetings to explain growth management plans to community members and obtain their feedback on how local UGBs might be revised.
“We are just getting started,” Anderson said. “We’ve got all the mayors, city managers, the planners, sewage and septic, utility companies. All the people and all the cities to look at where growth should occur.”
About Williamson 2040
The Williamson 2040 plan was approved by the County Commission in March 2020.
Under the plan, the county committed to the creation of a growth management framework, additional rural protection, improvement to transportation infrastructure and planning of “quality growth and development.”
The work will require coordination between municipalities, unincorporated communities and the larger county. Williamson County categorizes land outside municipalities into categories — rural land, hamlets, villages and municipal growth areas.
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In a 2007 land use plan, former hamlets College Grove, Grassland, Leiper’s Fork and Triune were identified as villages with “special area plans.” The 2040 plan recommends the identification of current hamlets Arrington and Rudderville as villages once their special area plans and zoning district standards are developed.
About urban growth boundaries
Municipal growth areas, also known as urban growth boundaries, define “where the majority of the future growth and development is intended to occur in the county,” according to the 2040 plan. Williamson County established its boundaries in 2000 as required by the state.
Many counties have amended their plans between then and now, some just a single time and others multiple, but there is no formal requirement to do so.
Consideration of an update to the boundaries will be a big part of creating the county’s growth management framework.
“That work will consist of evaluating appropriate locations for future growth that can be served by adequate and timely infrastructure and public services,” Williamson County’s planning and zoning director, Michael Matteson, told the Tennessean
Thompson’s Station recently held a public meeting and plans to hold its second in August. Community members pinpointed on a map where they would and wouldn’t like to see growth and development.
Franklin plans to hold its first virtual meeting in August. Later, these municipalities and others will come together to plan growth areas.
Across the county, leaders must balance where residents want to grow with limitations to development, especially in terms of whether public utilities and services can reach more rural areas.
Matteson said unincorporated communities “shouldn’t be affected by work taking place now or if the countywide growth plan is updated.” He also said the process of developing special area plans for newly designated villages will include input from community stakeholders.
Anderson said some incorporated areas have made clear they’d like to avoid being annexed into municipalities, but their annexations could be possible in the future.
“Everybody’s got to agree on (growth) before moving forward,” Anderson said. “Maybe in 25 years, that’s a different picture, but today, we’re just not there.”
Matteson predicted an update to the growth boundaries would be completed by the first half of 2022 if the county decides one is necessary.
For the county mayor, one of the most important factors to consider in developing a successful growth plan is residents’ desired quality of life.
“What does quality of life mean? It means something different to everybody,” Anderson said. “[Residents] define quality of life the way they want to, and my job is try to take all that and see what we can afford to do and how we do it.”