The name Blackman brings to mind rapid, dense growth and desirable schools. Yet amid all the construction, spots of pasture land remain in areas, although that is starting to change.
A strip of rural properties and farmland along Franklin Pike (State Highway 96) west of Veterans Parkway is under scrutiny for construction of 2,000 homes in one development alone and two schools across the street. Even if those projects do not take form anytime soon, existing residents in a subdivision next door report they are experiencing severe flash flooding.
Preparing a Harvest
Former Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess is partnering with a national developer to build a planned community, called Harvest, on farmland he owns. The development would have 2,000 single-family detached homes and townhomes and 36,000 square feet of commercial space on 537 acres. There would be approximately 129 acres of open space consisting of wetlands, streams, pedestrian trails, neighborhood parks and stormwater management areas, according to city documents. The density is 3.84 dwelling units per acre.
The case, which includes an annexation request, appeared before the Murfreesboro Planning Commission last October but the developer never moved it on to the next stage, which would have been a public hearing at the commission, city officials said.
The developers of Harvest are Murfreesboro 516 LLC and Freehold Communities, a national builder whose local office is in Brentwood, according to city records. A representative for Freehold did not respond to a request for comment.
Burgess said that Harvest is being reviewed by developers as well as the city and county.
“It’s not a done deal,” he said, adding the development is a “very complex, large project with a lot of moving pieces that have to be properly taken care of before it can move forward.”
The Burgess farm is across the street from about 154 acres that Rutherford County Schools is attempting to buy from the City of Murfreesboro to build two schools. The addresses are 7096 and 7352 Franklin Road.
RCS said it is offering $28,500 per acre. At about 154 acres, the price would be $4,389,000. The city has considered using that land to build a park for the Blackman community.
RCS School Board Attorney Jeff Reed submitted the sales contract to the city on Feb. 7, said Trey Lee, assistant superintendent for engineering and construction.
The city’s legal department is considering the proposal, said Mike Browning, the city’s public information director. After that, the city council will review it for potential approval.
One concern that some have raised about building schools on the city’s site is that there are about 30 acres identified as wetlands, according to previous discussions at the school board. The city has said it has a report showing 29 acres of potential wetlands/ponds and one potential stream.
Next door to the city’s land is Royal Glen subdivision; neither site is in the city boundaries. One resident of the subdivision, Gina Kellum, has spoken out about how her property experienced severe flooding during flash floods in February 2019 and twice this month. Her son, Andrew, shared the family’s concerns at a recent school board meeting.
Gina Kellum said that during this past year, she has spoken to officials that include the county engineering office, the county highway department and a private engineering firm that has worked in the subdivision, and either not reached them or heard that they can do nothing.
Real estate broker Bob Parks, who is listed on the subdivision plat as the developer, did not respond to a message seeking comment. Kellum’s county commissioner, Trey Gooch, also did not respond to a request for comment.
Gina Kellum said she fears that the development of Burgess’ farm would lead to yet more water flowing into the city-owned property and into her yard. She said she believes her area of the subdivision needs to be elevated higher.
“If raw land can’t stop the water, no retention pond will fix this,” she said.
Burgess said he did not agree.
“Whatever happens, this project’s water will be taken care of,” Burgess said. “It will not increase the water in any way,” adding that development laws require engineers to create retention solutions, which often improve water runoff issues.
The Rutherford County government has already been looking at water issues in the areas around Franklin Pike and Shores Road.
The county government last year hired Dr. Albert Ogden to study water issues. He is a professor emeritus of geology from Middle Tennessee State University who specializes in water flow.
He has been studying the area since Aug. 1, 2019, he said. That work includes measuring water levels in homeowners’ wells and in sinkholes. He determines how much sinkholes fill up to determine whether the water table is rising to the surface or whether the table is farther down and can be dug into drain better.
The results from the past couple of months of storms show that the water table from the wells matches the same level by which sink holes are filling up, so that indicates that digging into sink holes will not help.
He said he also performs dye tracing of groundwater using nontoxic dyes or charcoal by placing the material in sinkholes around Shores Road.
Ogden said he plans to continue to monitor the situation until at least May 1, then give his report to the county. He has done such work for the county off and on for at least 20 years, as well as for local city governments.
He did say that Royal Glen’s issues appear to be “a simple engineering solution” compared to the Shores Road area, but he did not want to elaborate. He said he is a geologist, not an engineer, so he does not know what steps may be taken to hold water back.