A contractor prepares to install studs Sept. 12, 2012, on a home under construction in the Springhouse subdivision in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (TMP Photo/M. Kemph)
A proposal to rezone a portion of the new Springhouse subdivision in the Blackman community for smaller homes has drawn the ire of homeowners who contend the changes would lower overall property values and increase traffic.
“We were told by your son, Justin (Harney), nothing like this would happen in Springhouse when I bought a home from him,” Jim Tate said, as he addressed real estate developer John Harney during a recent meeting of the Rutherford County Planning Commission.
“If I had wanted to live on Cason Lane, I would have built a home there,” said Tate, who was one of the first people to buy a home in the Springhouse subdivision, located off Shores Road near Veterans Parkway.
Homeowners said they are also upset about not receiving any notice from the owners of Park Trust Development, jointly owned by Harney and Bob Parks, about the rezoning proposal.
“None of these changes were included in the Springhouse master plan, so someone should have contacted us about it,” Clyde Alexander said, adding homeowners chose Springhouse because it was marketed as a subdivision consisting of upscale homes larger than 2,200 square feet, which would be priced no lower than $250,000.
Five years ago, the Park Trust group gained authorization for the original Springhouse plans under residential-use zoning, which requires a minimum of 15,000 square feet per lot.
The company has marketed the subdivision as country living near Murfreesboro, and it is one of the few new Blackman developments that offer a change from cookie-cutter homes on small lots, Tate said.
If approved by the Planning Commission, nearly 75 acres would be rezoned as a planned residential development called Nature Walk that would comprise 165 single family homes on lots roughly half the size of what is in Springhouse.
“Nature Walk is aimed at a different homebuyer, one who wants a smaller lot but wants a home filled with amenities,” Harney said.
And while he acknowledged that it was a mistake for the Parks Trust group not to notify Springhouse homeowners, Harney said it was unintentional.
According to rezoning laws, developers are only required to notify residents living within 500 feet of a proposed change. Because the main entrance would be located on Franklin Road, the Parks Trust group only informed residents living in that area.
However, the two subdivisions would be connected to allow access at multiple points, as required by building codes for larger developments.
“This never came to mind that we would need to inform residents in the Springhouse subdivision,” he said. “We were not trying to slip anything past anyone.”
In fact, Harney said he was surprised to learn that anyone would be opposed to the rezoning request.
“But, I do understand their alarm,” he said. “We made a mistake because we should have informed them about the changes.”
In response to the outcry, the Parks Trust group agreed to hold a meeting with Springhouse homeowners to discuss the matter.
“We are willing to make some concessions, if needed,” Harney said, adding developers are still trying to finalize a date for the meeting.
Harney said Nature Walk would be designed as a compliment to Springhouse, not a development aimed at bringing down home values.
According to a comparative market analysis, the average sale price of a Springhouse home is hovering at $309,000 – nearly $80,000 more than what the expected median price would be of a Nature Walk home.
As part of the current plan, the Nature Walk homes would only be required to meet a minimum of 1,600 square feet. In addition, restrictions on using vinyl siding would also be lifted.
Compared with the original Springhouse master plan, the changes would result in an increase of 29 more houses than what was originally approved.
Despite the increase of homes, homeowners in Springhouse and Nature Walk would have more “usable green space” than before, an estimated 35 percent once both subdivisions are complete, according to the proposal.
“We decided, based on the research we did, smaller lots with more green space that everyone can use seems to be more attractive to buyers,” Harney said. “We are trying to encourage pedestrian-style living.”
Even though Harney acknowledged that the Nature Walk homes would be priced between the $200,000 and $250,000 range, he said there would monuments delineating the two subdivisions.
“We want to keep the areas connected so that homeowners from both Springhouse and Nature Walk can enjoy the green space,” he said, “which I think is an improvement from the original plans.”