The bottom line about Williamson County? Growth is here, and more growth is coming, but 99 percent of it will likely be within the county’s incorporated towns and cities.
That was the consistent message shared by the people whose job it is to know these things: County Mayor Rogers Anderson, Franklin Mayor Ken Moore, Brentwood City Manager Kirk Bednar, Spring Hill Mayor Rick Graham, Williamson County Schools superintendent Dr. Mike Looney, Interim director of the county’s office of Economic Development Jeremiah Pyron and Franklin Tomorrow executive director Mindy Tate to members of the Williamson County Association of Realtors.
"We can’t build our way out of transit issues."
The panelists spoke at the association’s May membership luncheon held at WCAR's Brentwood headquarters in Westgate Commons.
In regards to the county’s land planning and land usage, Anderson told those gathered in WCAR’s Brentwood headquarters that while the county saw a 45 percent population growth between 2000 and 2010; only one percent of that growth was in the county’s unincorporated area. “The model we’re using is working,” he said.
But while the rural nature of the county will likely remain much like it is today, most of the incorporated areas are growing and are projected to keep growing, which gives (School Superintendent) Looney pause – and was the source of some funny one liners between the superintendent and the mayor of the county which funds the local school system.
Moore said the most recent population estimate for Franklin is 66,000. In 2020, that number is expected to reach 91,000. By 2040, it could reach 120,000.
The City of Spring Hill is in the midst of re-evaluating and redirecting its economic development mission, Graham said. That doesn’t mean economic development isn’t happening there. Just a few years ago, the city had significant financial woes and only $3 million in the bank. Today it has $16 million and “we’re growing, we’re booming … We’re blessed,” Graham said.
In Brentwood, the city will be built out in 20 years which will bring stability as far as population growth goes, Bednar said, “but we can’t build our way out of transit issues.”
And transit and transportation issues were a hot topic among the panelists.
Tate cited Franklin Tomorrow’s recent Vision Survey results that indicated that while nine out of 10 respondents rated their quality of life in Franklin as good or excellent, one of the things residents most wanted was improved greenways to encourage connectivity via walkways and bikeways between different areas of the city.
|WCS' superintendent Dr. Mike Looney high fives a WCAR member while Dr. Ken Moore, Franklin's mayor, looks on.|
Anderson mentioned NashvilleNext, the new initiative launched by the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) that is charged with looking at what the region is going to look like in 2040. He said projections indicate that Middle Tennessee could have one million more people in 2040 than live here now.
“That’s a lot of people,” he said. And those people will bring with them a lot of transportation needs, he added.
“We love our cars in Williamson County. We LOVE our cars in Williamson County,” Anderson stated. “But there’s not a lot we can do out on the highways,” to ease congestion.
Tate said one issue is that people here have no concept of public transportation or even how to find out about alternatives to their cars. Looney noted that only 65 percent of the county’s students ride school buses to school. “Car riders” contribute 10,000 car trips to county roads every day, he said.
If Pyron’s office is any indication, growth in the area of corporate and company relocations will continue at a swift pace. The Office of Economic Development recently merged with the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce, which itself just formed less than a year ago from three independent chambers.
“We do have a pretty full pipeline,” Pyron said of companies who have expressed interest in the area.
The county’s great quality of life, great schools and vibrant community “didn’t happen by happenstance,” Tate said. “It’s going to take everyone to make sure it stays as good as it is.”
She encouraged all attending to become engaged in the community at large.
“When we say engage, we mean people need to get out of their silo and to take notice of what is happening around them.”
David Logan of SilverPointe Properties moderated the panel.
WCAR serves real estate professionals and consumers in Williamson County. Established in 1962, it now has 1400 member.