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The Issue: Troy Thompson

Commissioner talks rezoning challenges

By ZOË WATKINS - zwatkins@t-g.com
Posted 11/29/22

District 3 commissioner Troy Thompson has been in the Unionville-Rover area for 26 years. “I like the area because it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere but kind of close to everything. …

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The Issue: Troy Thompson

Commissioner talks rezoning challenges


District 3 commissioner Troy Thompson has been in the Unionville-Rover area for 26 years. “I like the area because it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere but kind of close to everything. It’s kind of an odd spot,” Thompson said with a laugh.  

“But what I really love about Shelbyville and Bedford County is we seem to do more with less,” said Thompson.  

“We’re not top of the chain in tax base, or the wheel tax, or sales tax... But I’m pretty confident in all the services we provide. We’re really blessed to have what we have.”  

To say the least, he’s familiar with the area. Thompson grew up in Shelbyville, which he considers “home base.”  

He graduated from Shelbyville Central High School in 1984 and then Middle Tennessee State University, where he majored in business administration and public relations, all while serving as a pitcher for the baseball team. After graduating, Thompson worked at a human resources firm in Lewisburg before moving on to Franklin. He then worked for Bedford County government in finance under Paul Parker beginning in 1993.  

This county government experience in many ways paved the way for Thompson becoming a county commissioner today.  

“I felt like I had sat on the bench long enough, and I like to help people...I had watched county government and I know how it works with a bad commissioner or a good commissioner,” he said.  

But long gone are the days when you could go to any given store or shop and sit with the “old-timers” to find out all the news of the community. Instead, Thompson said he went door-to-door, hearing many residents say they had lost confidence in the government and didn’t feel motivation to vote or get involved.  

“We’ve had some issues out in Unionville already and it hasn’t died down since the PUD,” said Thompson.  

Thompson is referring to the proposed rezoning for the planned unit development on Longview Road in Unionville, which was going to bring 109 lots to 117 acres.  

Many residents fought the rezoning since it first came up last April. The Bedford County Board of Commissioners voted against the rezoning at their November meeting. Now, instead of a PUD, the developers, Landmark Homes of Tennessee, can only create a standard subdivision with 80 houses instead of 109.  

“We did the will of the people, but it wasn’t as simple as PUD or no PUD,” he said.  

Thompson said he talked to many residents who were “on the other side” and were for the rezoning. He said he could see the benefits of a PUD in that their blueprints are exact—you know exactly what kind of layout the neighborhood is getting.  

“There were many truths and nontruths, from both sides, about the PUD. And you just want to work your way through all the dirt and mud just to get to the facts, then make the best decision you can,” he said.  

Ultimately, it boiled down to “could we envision one being in Longview?” according to Thompson.  

“We’ll never know what the best choice was until 10, 15 years from now,” said Thompson. “It was a tough call, but if they’re good with the subdivision, then I feel good about it.”  

Now there’s another zoning issue on 41A for a convenience store. Even though the location has served as other commercial retail businesses— including a farmers’ market, a convenience market, and a bar—the lot is no longer considered a grandfathered commercial lot since it hasn’t had any like commercial usage in three years.  

It’s a challenge of being a county commissioner when issues like this arise as you have to be a representative of the people but also adhering to a set of rules.  

Thompson is familiar with this as he served on the Beer Board for almost 30 years. “On the beer board, we have a set of guidelines we go by and that’s it....and legally, you have to approve the beer license because there’s no reason not to.” That is, even if the business is seen as “controversial.”  

“It’s difficult when you have to make a decision that’s probably not in the best interest of the majority,” he said. “That’s difficult for me because I want to do the will of the people.”  

Thompson said sometimes it seems like as a county official zoning is like shooting at a moving target. “What’s best for Wartrace, Bell Buckle may not be best for Unionville, Rover, or Halls Mill,” he said.  

Having refereed in football and umpired in baseball, he understands when people are split on a decision. “On a field, I try to explain my position, which I try to work my way backwards on refereeing because you’ve got the choice and you have to say this is why I did it. On something like this, I try to get with the people,” he explained.  

“And that usually works best, when you’re honest with the people.”  

“I know we won’t see eye-to-eye on everything. But I’m not going to let any decision I make on the commission affect the friendships I have with my neighbors,” he said.  

And there will be continued zoning challenges as Bedford County develops and grows. “I think the challenges will include the industrial park we have going on out there on Highway 231. And even competing with Rutherford County in industry,” Thompson said.  

“I would like to be on the end of choosing rather than being chosen. I would like to say we can do this, this, or this, rather than just this,” said Thompson.  

Overall, Thompson said he’s looking forward to working with the new county commissioner in making these decisions.  

“I’m really impressed with these new commissioners. I think you’re going to get a wide variety of things... That’s the way I hoped to be, based on the issue,” he said