Twenty Rutherford County residents spoke out Monday about the proposed zoning ordinance to the Planning Commission.
The public hearing drew a crowd at the courthouse as residents lined up for more than three hours to express their thoughts on the proposed zoning ordinance, which adds teeth to the recently adopted comprehensive land-use plan.
The comprehensive plan was created to guide land development in Rutherford County according to citizen input, and the zoning ordinance provides detailed regulations for that plan.
More than half of those who spoke at the public hearing were opposed to the zoning ordinance. A wide array of concerns were expressed, including issues of property values and rights of property owners to ideas of an international conspiracy linked to the comprehensive land-use plan.
Most comments were directed at a portion of the zoning ordinance that down-zones part of the unincorporated areas of Rutherford County. Currently, the whole county is zoned R-15, which allows for three units per acre of land. The proposed zoning ordinance would only allow one unit per acre of land in some parts of the county.
Charlie Montgomery, president of the Middle Tennessee Association of Realtors, spoke on behalf of the association saying, “The association strongly opposes the decision to re-zone parts of the county as low-density residential... If massive amounts of land are re-zoned from R-15 to R-L then the affected lands will be less valuable by default.”
Chris Jensen, a member of the Rutherford County Home Builders Association, argued the ordinance discourages growth.
“Looking at this proposed ordinance, we do see some things that will increase restrictions, devalue land, and create an environment for unworkable developments,” Jensen said. “With this ordinance, we will make it harder for growth in the county than to encourage proper development and direct it in a desirable way.”
Local land owner Billy Pearson was also against the proposed one unit per acre ordinance arguing he has a 5-acre tract of land he is ready to sell.
“I know I can get more out of it at three units an acre than one,” Pearson said. “Nobody’s farming anymore, and nobody’s milking cows, so I encourage you to vote against it and leave it at three houses per acre.”
Commissioner Robert Peay, Jr. (Dist. 4) disagreed that farmers are absent from Rutherford County but echoed Pearson saying land is the retirement plan for many local farmers.
“To me, what we’re doing to these farmers is taking away they’re 401K. When they retire, some of these guys are gonna have to sell their property to maintain their lifestyle or even to eat regularly,” Peay said.
Those in favor of the proposed zoning ordinance argued it would drive home prices up and was in-line with how they wanted to see county growth.
“Smart growth is not about curtailing growth, it is about communities planning wisely for its future,” said Susan Allen, president of the Rutherford Neighborhood Alliance.
Arguing on behalf of a friend, local resident Pat Sanders said realtors and home builders may be worried about the one unit per acre ordinance as it would be less units to build and sell in the county, however could be offset by higher price tags.
Former County Commission candidate Jake Robinson argued for the creation of a steering committee to evaluate the zoning ordinance.
“The question that has not been answered is why are we down-zoning,” Robinson said. “All we’re asking is for real dialogue coming from the Planning Department and the Planning Commission.”
The Planning Commission will hold another work session on the proposed zoning ordinance at 9 a.m. on Monday, April 23, in the Mezzanine. Members will discuss comments and questions presented at the public hearing.