Ann Petersen traced her fingers across a newspaper article from 2005.
The yellowing pages cut out for her personal archives, the Franklin Review Appeal story discussed development in the area, particularly that Berry Farms was queued up as the next Cool Springs.
Petersen could only laugh as she looked across the street at Franklin’s Main Street from the front porch of a coffee shop that wasn’t there two decades before.
As the county’s first female planning commissioner in the 1970s, Petersen had some crucial votes when it came to approving new subdivisions, the galleria and corporate headquarters making their marks in Williamson County.
“I remember thinking: It would be great if Franklin could have some Class A office space, since Brentwood already had some with Maryland Farms,” the Franklin planning commissioner and at-large alderman said. “And oh, if Franklin didn’t get that office space and more.”
Now Petersen will have a hand in voting on the implementation of the City of Franklin’s new zoning code. She also will watch carefully as Williamson County creates its 2040 land use plan this spring.
“This city has always been kind of growing,” she said. “We moved here, and wanted to because it was a small town beside a big town. We just didn’t know that was about to all change.”
A snapshot of now
At a recent Franklin aldermen meeting, residents on the east side of the city and county made their ways forward to a podium in the boardroom.
With pieces of paper in hand, members of the neighborhood shared their distress over a potential new development called Carothers Chase. It would back up to the new subdivision Colletta Park. But it also would back up to existing neighborhoods, creating a discord on what should happen on the vacant parcel of land. The site is 22 acres.
“We are very concerned about the blasting, which would be necessary for the cul-de-sac to go in behind us,” Surrey Lane homeowner Christopher Caffyn-Parsons said. “It would be in very close proximity to the existing established homes. In reference to the cul-de-sac that we are adamantly against, this fits in with none of the current connectivity.”
Petersen watched from her seat with the other seven aldermen and the mayor. She said these types of conversations will only become more complicated as more people want to move here.
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Since the beginning of 2019, Williamson, Inc.’s data shows that the county has grown to 226,000 people. Unemployment in the county sat at 2.1 percent.
“The land that would be easy to develop is gone,” she said. “You didn’t use to have people come and voice concerns of developers building beside them because none of it was there.”
Another chapter of planning
In 2017, Franklin leaders approved a new land use plan: Envision Franklin.
The plan maps out appropriate uses for land, how tall buildings can be and where growth should happen.
Since its approval, Franklin planner Kelly Dannenfelser has worked tirelessly to help create the city’s updated zoning code. A land plan and zoning ordinance have to work in tandem to ensure both work properly as a city grows, she said.
“As part of the process, we conducted interviews with aldermen and planning commission members and held a number of think-tank meetings with developers and design professionals that focused on residential buildings, nonresidential and mixed-use buildings and site design,” she said.
The city brought on a consultant in the fall to review and provide recommendations on the working draft of the ordinance. Creating a zoning ordinance is anything but simple, she said.
Some of the biggest changes in the proposed zoning ordinance revolve around the Cool Springs area. In 2018, Franklin generated a valuation of $744 million in new building permits.
“Cool Springs and it moving forward a more urban design seemed to be generally supported by those who submitted public input,” she said. “For the average homeowner, it won’t be a huge change. But it should help future development by adding a couple of new districts that help implement Envision Franklin.”
Those proposed changes include adding residential units over commercial ones in Cool Springs, creating new mixed residential and conservation districts and a residential district with a historic residential design.
A look to 2040
Matt Matteson sat at his desk in the Williamson County planning office with a spiral-bound copy of a land use plan from 2007.
Starting in April with public meetings, Matteson and his team will start collecting public input in person and online to shape a plan for how the county will grow during the next two decades.
“We want people to care because this plan is the stage for everything else,” he said. “This is the overall policy document for the county, and it sets forth the development policy, and it articulates the shared vision of what growth should be. This will help influence what Williamson County is like to live in by 2040.”
Matteson said the key to Williamson’s vision will revolve around one word: balance. He said that will require reconciling various points of view with the projections of growth, which only point to the county accelerating rapidly. It also will require feedback from the school system and county departments that play a role in providing services to the public.
It also will create special plans for some of the unincorporated areas such as Triune, Grassland, Leiper’s Fork and College Grove.
“We can only emphasize over and over again how much we want and need the community involvement,” he said. “We want as many people as possible to share in the vision of Williamson.”
The future of Williamson County
In a series of stories throughout 2019, The Tennessean’s Williamson County team will explore how the community is changing, from population growth and green space to incomes and infrastructure.
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Reach Emily West at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-613-1380 and on Twitter @emwest22.