Tuesday evening’s Rules and Legislative Committee meeting had a full house in the historic courtroom as many residents came to here discussion on Commissioner Bill Anderson’s …
Tuesday evening’s Rules and Legislative Committee meeting had a full house in the historic courtroom as many residents came to here discussion on Commissioner Bill Anderson’s resolution.
The resolution would put heavy regulation on subdivisions and zoning amendments as well as give more planning influence to the County Commission from the Planning Commission.
“I love the county the way it is,” Anderson told the Times-Gazette.
“What I don’t want to see is our countryside turning into high-density houses everywhere,” said Anderson. “I don’t want to look like Highway 99 going into Murfreesboro. There’s a place for subdivisions and there’s a place for country and I want to preserve the country as best as we can.”
“I would just like to see the acreage at least kept to one house per acre at minimum and it needs to perk,” Anderson said.
There’s also a specific part of the original resolution that would not allow STEP (Septic Tank Effluent Pumping) Systems in the county. Anderson said he has had developers tell him a STEP system that holds over 50 homes is “set up to fail.”
Zoning Director Chris White said STEP system technology is close to 100 years, while the state of Tennessee has thousands in use today. He said he’s never heard of one going bad. But if something were to go wrong, they're owned by a public utility, which is required by the state to have a duplicate site that is approved by the Department of Environmental Conservation to be in reserve. In a STEP system, each house has its own septic tank and the affluents are pumped to a sand filter.
There are at least four STEP systems in the county currently in operation. Cascade and Community high schools, the Horseshoe Bend subdivision on U.S. 231 North, and the State Fire Codes Academy.
Anderson said, “I do think it’s a way to circumvent perking and circumvent the existing law by going to a STEP system so they can build more houses.”
He also added that he fears adding major subdivisions in the county would drive up property values and make seniors, especially those on a fixed income, feel like they’re being pushed out.
What’s in the resolution
For instance, in the original resolution, Section 1 proposes “the County Commission will have final approval of all subdivisions,” moving the power from the planning commission to the county commission.
“As a Commission we approve all the zonings. Looks to me like we should be approving all major subdivisions,” said Anderson.
Section 2 suggests that the county commission be informed of all appeals made in the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) meetings and given the “final say” in the approval.
Section 3 of Commissioner Anderson’s resolution states the county “will not accept any applicants for R-1 PUD, R-2 PUD or any other Planned Unit Development.”
Section 4 would disallow STEP systems. Section 4 also would not allow any accessory structures (such as mini-barns or garages) to be allowed on pre-existing, non-conforming lots. These “grandfathered pre-existing, non-conforming lots” are lots that would be smaller in size than five acres.
Section 5 seeks to enlarge R-1 lots from a minimum 30,000 to 43,560 square feet (that is, one acre). Section 6 proposes to enlarge the minimum size of R-2 lots from 25,000 square feet to 30,000. Section 7 suggests a similar proposal for R-3 lots (used for apartments or duplexes inside a municipal’s urban growth boundary) from 20,000 square feet to 30,000.
Section 8 of the resolution also takes this concept a step further by proposing the Zoning Director inform all commissioner of all BZA applications. Section 9 also suggests the Zoning Director hosts town hall meetings on all changes to the Zoning Resolution. The current law stands that the director must host occasional town hall meetings when “necessary or when major projects are proposed.”
Anderson said many of these components for this resolution came from a resolution made in Williamson County, which decided houses in the rural area would have a five-acre minimum in the county.
Opinion and opposition
Commissioner Greg Vick made it clear he is against the resolution due to its lack of adherence to the Dillon Rule. “You really need to be careful on this resolution,” said Vick during the meeting. This resolution “is a corrupt bargain designed for nothing more than sheer unvarnished, good ole boy politics at its very best,” said Vick. “Simply put, this resolution does nothing but hamstring every single buyer, home seller, homeowner, small businessman, and resident of Bedford County through sheer draconian measures unlike any other county in this state. For what? That’s easy, for political power held by a few county commissioners that are trying to play a game.”
Tennessee is a Dillon’s Rule state, Vick explained. The rule limits local government to only exercise powers granted by the state, powers necessarily and implied from the grant of power, and powers crucial to the existence of government.
For example, under Dillon’s Rule, any amendments made in the county’s Zoning Resolution must be administratively initiated and recommended to the county legislative body (county commission) by the regional planning commission before the legislative body can approve or not. The county commission can only approve or deny amendments to the zoning resolution when an application has been submitted to the planning commission and a favorable recommendation has been given.
This, essentially, keeps politics out of zoning and planning. “If we adopt something like Section 9, we’re going to delay process and place roadblocks and undue burdens on every zoning variance...But worst it’s going to inhibit family members from gifting property...” said Vick.
Commissioner Vick wrote, “the Planning Commissions, were, in my opinion, intentionally left out of the hands of the legislative bodies of local government in order to avoid cases where the politics of a legislative branch of government could enter into a decision which might disenfranchise a property owner of his or her constructional rights.”
Candy Joyce from the Middle Tennessee Association of Realtors (MTAR) said in an email, “These SIGNIFICANT changes would essentially stop all options for growth, development and housing opportunity in Bedford County. In short, proposals to reject any future PUDs, alternative waste systems such as Step systems, and minimum 5-acre subdivision lot sizes are paramount in the proposal.”
“We owe it to the community and our industry to step into this dialogue today and shape the future of Bedford County pro-actively and with smart, thoughtful progress,” said Joyce.
The resolution was deferred to the planning commission so several changes can be made to the document to come up with something “we can all agree to,” said Anderson.
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