By ALEXANDER WILLIS
After a lengthy debate, the Spring Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously passed the city’s new Unified Development Code.
The Unified Development Code is a total design document for the city. Mayor Rick Graham called the passing a “monumental vote.”
One of the largest points of debate was an amendment proposed by Graham that would allow for the construction of up to four billboards on both sides of Saturn Parkway. The proposed billboards would have stone posts and low-lighting. They would also have cameras, and be able to display police and emergency alerts within minutes.
Ward 2 Alderman Jeff Graves argued in favor of the billboards, saying the promotion of businesses would make it worthwhile.
“I can see the argument from both sides of it, but I think if we don’t amend it to include this, we’re missing a huge opportunity to promote businesses within our city,” Graves said. “To become a more business friendly city, which is I think something we all want.”
Ward 3 Alderman Susan Zemek argued against the billboards, saying there wasn’t even a guarantee that the billboards would be rented by businesses in Spring Hill.
“We have gone from a rural town to a city of 41,000 now, and I get things change, but Saturn Parkway is one of our last green spaces left,” Zemek said. “I get that four billboards isn’t a lot, and this is supposed to be aesthetically pleasing… there is nothing aesthetically pleasing about a billboard.”
Saturn Parkway was actually designated as a scenic route all the way back in 1991 by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Ward 2 Alderman Matt Fitterer said Saturn Parkway’s scenic route status, along with conflicts with the Unified Development Code (UDC) were both reasons he would not support the billboards.
“The primary purpose of the UDC is to advance the goals of the comprehensive plan – to help the city develop in the ways that the citizens want to see,” Fitterer said. “The comprehensive plan is clear that billboards are not a part of that character.”
The amendment that would see the construction of billboards on Saturn Parkway ultimately failed to pass, with a vote of 4-5.
Following the failed motion, the new UDC was passed unanimously by the board. This document includes “a new zoning ordinance, subdivision regulations, and related site development regulations,” according to the resolution.
Even with heavy debate, City Administrator Victor Lay said he was impressed with the board’s ability to come together for the city.
“To see you all vote unanimously on a document that’s this size speaks volumes to the testament of work you put into it,” Lay said. While we had great discussion here about the issue of billboards, overall, being able to vote unanimously… that’s impressive.”