Citizens continue to protest a $1-billion development in Williamson and Davidson Counties that was to be voted on last week. Save Stephens Valley and its supporters got a small victory, or at least a reprieve, on Thursday night.
At a Williamson County Planning Commission meeting on last Thursday night, Rochford Realty & Construction, the developer of a potential 850-acre, 1400 home subdivision plan, asked for any vote on the plan to be pushed to April.
Discussion at the meeting centered around traffic. Specifically the idea of making Rochford, as part of the project’s passage, widen Sneed Road to four lanes and, theoretically, ameliorate traffic. As the plan stood at the meeting, Rochford will build Sneed Road out when the project is near completion, which the commission seemed to find way too late.
John Lackey, Commission Chairman, said he was not comfortable with the timing to defer widening Sneed Road to four lanes. Again, the plan proposed by Rochford would not call for this until the entire development is near completion, almost twenty years out. Mr. Lackey said his perception is that four lane capability would be needed long before then. He asked Mr. Rochford to propose “on the spot” an updated trigger point or number of dwellings that would trigger the widening.
The Rochford team, uncomfortable with confidently revising its Sneed Road plan “on the fly,” asked for a deferral of the vote on the plan until the April 14 Planning Commission meeting.
Traffic Only Part of Concern
For Laura Turner of Citizens for Old Natchez Trace and Save Stephens Valley and her fellow concerned citizens, were grateful that this density would posed serious traffic troubles.
Barb Sturgeon, Commissioner for the 8th District who lives in Laurelbrooke, described it well:
“I’ve heard people say this mega development can cause a traffic tsunami that we’re all going to get tangled up in,” Sturgeon said. “I live in Laurelbrooke, and I have to get out onto Sneed in the morning, and I think the ‘tsunami’ is already here. It’s hard for me to understand how you can put four lanes of Sneed into two lanes of Hillsboro and have it not get worse”.
Hillsboro is a state road and no matter what speed improvements are done to Sneed, bottlenecks will still occur due to the flow limitations of one lane each way on Hillsboro. That point resonated well with the Commission.
The last thing anyone wants is another Westhaven situation, said Turner. The developer will agree to anything to get its plan passed and then it never gets done-or the taxpayers end up paying for it, if it does at all, said Turner.
Residents of Westhaven, which started construction in 2001, are still waiting for the other half of the Mack Hatcher circle that developers agreed to help get done, she said.
But this is about more than just traffic.
Turner’s group, which has been protesting at major intersections along the area (such as Sneed Road and Temple Road), was happy to get one more month to get its message out.
That message, of course, is that this development does not fit in the northwest part of Williamson County. The rich inventory of historic, scenic, culturally significant and environmentally sensitive resources on this rural landscape located in this area needs protection from mega density.
While careful to stress that she is not anti-development, just anti-this development because it is simply in the wrong place. Commissioner Jack Walton questioned the developer about how he plans to get all these people to the interstate.
“We are not against growth, but about growth with preservation and the recognition of history. I think Mr. Rochford is under the mistaken impression that once this plan is approved that we will just fold our tents and go away. There is a ground swell of citizen residents concerned who stand to lose everything that is precious to us here. And Williamson County needs to protect some of its history. We have a town and country lifestyle. We are the country part. This plan needs a serious reduction in density.”
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