Southern Middle Tennessee's explosive growth and the construction of new homes, is expected to take a significant financial toll on the local government's highway department and in turn the region's taxpayers.
In response, members of the Maury County Commission plan to take a stand to mitigate the cost for taxpayers, calling on Maury County Roads Superintendent Van Boshers to set strict requirements on the construction of roads surrounding new housing developments.
For example, a proposed 700-home development along Greens Mill Road is the latest project to spark an initiative from members of the commission because of additional traffic the new development will bring to the region's surrounding rural roads.
Maury County residents, who live along Greens Mill Road, and some commissioners are concerned that the windy, narrow road is unfit to accommodate an increase in traffic.
The project could become one of the city's largest developments in recent history.
Annexation approved on first reading
The proposed subdivision has previously stirred concerns from nearby residents, who fear increased traffic, public safety access and the project's impact on property values.
The project's proposed rezoning to RS-10, which would allow for single-family homes, along with the Greens Mill preliminary planned unit development (PUD) was approved this week in the first of two readings by the Columbia City Council.
The split 4-2-1 vote included votes for approval by Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder, Vice Mayor Christa Martin, as well as council members Danny Coleman and DaVena Hardison. Council members Tony Greene and Ken Wiles voted against, while councilman Kenny Marshall abstained.
The approximately 376-acre property at 2558 Greens Mill Road appeared for its first of two readings on the Columbia City Council's agenda earlier this month. The proposal includes annexing the property from Maury County into the city, as well as approving its planned unit development (PUD) master plan.
The project was previously deferred for consideration at the request of the developer after receiving a significant amount of feedback from the public preceding the Thursday evening vote.
Developer Koby DuMont said the project would include $350,000 to improve the road with signage and new barriers along the road between the 0.8 miles of homes and the intersection at Nashville Highway.
The project could also include speed bumps and road widening.
Does infrastructure support slew of new homes?
Boshers shared concern that the road and another intersecting route, Double Branch Road, would be unable to accommodate the increase in traffic amid a particularly sharp curve in the road as well as the condition of bridges along the road.
He said a proper widening of the areas' roads to adequately accommodate the traffic would cost the county $5 million.
"We were getting a lot of calls, calls that we did not have an answer for," Boshers said.
"I am sorry but that is not equitable," said commissioner Tommy Wolaver, District 10.
Commissioner Larry Brown, who also represents District 10, shared a similar sentiment.
"I am all for growth, but we have a hard time already providing infrastructure and roads for what we have," Brown said. "To continue just giving grading permits to build only compounds that problem. We wrestle with the budget to keep the tax rate down. Where do we draw a line and say 'no more'? It is also going to be a huge safety issue today."
"We are feeding a lot of people from other counties and other states at our expense," Brown added. "Somewhere along the way, we have got to draw a line."
Maury County Commissioner Sue Stephenson, District 6, proposed Boshers act on behalf of the county and draft a letter of requirements for the Greens Mill Road project to the city and its developers.
"We cannot pay for this," Stephenson said. "The county's citizens cannot pay for this. We have a big problem here, and we need to start making some demands. They need to either annex the road, or they need to do everything that the highway superintendent tells them to do."
Mike White, an outspoken resident of Double Branch Road who is against the development, said that a proposed roundabout near the entrance to the development would interfere with the traffic of large farming equipment and large vehicles that frequent the area.
White said the only way for the coming problem to be resolved would be to fully expand Double Bridge Road, a narrow unmarked two lane road without a shoulder.
The commission's call to action was also support by Scott Sumners, District 5, who said that the current standard business procedure between the county, the city and its developments are not conducive to healthy, well-planned growth, creating an additional burden for taxpayers.
Sumners said 14,000 new homes are planned to be built in the region, evidenced by a spike of building permits in the region.
Commission has no power to stop it
Fellow commissioners warned the project will quickly fill up the newly-approved 2,000 student high school at Spring Hill's Battle Creek campus.
"The county has to pay when the city annexes, and they don’t take in all the road," Sumners said. "Double Branch is an old country road that is not fit for 700 homes. There does not need to be a high density development in that part of the county.
"There is nothing that we can do as a county. We have no voice in these annexations. There are people being affected by this annexation that really have no say in it. They are being affected by it, but they can't do anything because they are not in the city. It has really been to the detriment of this county. I wish we had a say in this because it would not pass before this body."
Reach Mike Christen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeChristenCDH and on Instagram @michaelmarco. Please consider supporting his work and that of other Daily Herald journalists by subscribing to the publication.
This article originally appeared on The Daily Herald: Greens Mill Road development sparks concern for county commissioners