UPDATE: Spring Hill is hosting a series of public meetings to talk about the new standards it is proposing for future development.
Mayor Rick Graham and alderman Matt Fittterer have called it the most important issue the Board of Mayor and Aldermen will vote on this year. The standards in this proposal will set the rules for growth over the next decade.
At these meetings the city wants to get feedback from the public about the new rules, and hear whether residents would like to see any changes. The city plans to incorporate the public’s input into the proposal before bringing it before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen later this year.
MEETING DATES AND TIMES
Thursday, February 8: 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. with presentations at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Friday, February 9: 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. with presentations at 8 a.m. and noon.
Saturday, February 10: 9 a.m. to noon with a presentation at 10 a.m.
You can read more about how the development code will affect the city in the story below.
By MATT BLOIS
A proposed set of standards for development in Spring Hill will set the rules of growth for at least the next decade, according to alderman Matt Fitterer.
The Unified Development Code describes how and where property owners can build. It also includes an update to the city’s rules for zoning, which were originally written in 1987.
The city released a public draft of the proposed rules last week, and it will host a series of public meetings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday next week to get feedback from the public. The Planning Commission and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen still need to approve the code before it takes effect.
Fitterer said the city decided to update the rules because the current code wasn’t moving the city in the direction that residents wanted it to go. In 2015, the city approved a comprehensive plan — created by residents of Spring Hill—that lays out a vision for what residents want the city to look like in 2040. That plan calls for preserving and improving the historic downtown area, attracting new businesses and adding a mix of housing options such as apartments and townhomes.
Fitterer said the new rules would help achieve those goals.
“Anybody that has run for office in Spring Hill has heard when they’re out knocking on doors and campaigning, ‘How was that allowed?’” Fitterer said. “The answer to that is the old rules said it was OK … What we can do is change the rules so that things that are not OK with the citizens are not allowed. “
A little over a year ago, the city formed an advisory committee to write a development code that was more in line with what people of Spring Hill desired. The committee included developers, people whose families have long lived in Spring Hill and several alderman, including Fitterer. The group worked with a consultant to write the code and next week it will present a draft of the code to get feedback.
“We’ve got a public document, and now we’re saying … Did we get it right?” Fitterer said. “And if we got something wrong, tell us.”
According to Fitterer, the current zoning ordinance essentially has two residential categories and one commercial category. There are more types of zoning, but he said in the real world it boils down to those three.
The new code includes 10 types of residential zoning, including categories for some types of denser housing, and seven types of commercial zoning. The commercial zoning includes downtown shopping areas, office building space and areas with housing and shopping.
Before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen vote on these rules, the committee will map out exactly where the new categories will go.
For current property owners, the new code won’t have much of an impact. Owners will not have to change their buildings if they don’t meet the standards in the new code, even if the type of zoning changes for their property.
The new code would make the historic downtown more pedestrian friendly by adding wide sidewalks and moving buildings closer to the street. The committee looked at downtown Franklin as something to strive towards in Spring Hill, Fitterer said.
The new zoning rules would also allow for some tall, commercial buildings near interstate highways, similar to the buildings in Cool Springs. Fitterer said he hopes creating a category for those types of buildings will attract businesses to Spring Hill without adding too much additional traffic. He said employees wouldn’t have to drive through town to get to work, which would help with the traffic volume.
The committee that wrote the rules, including developers and Fitterer, said that in general, the new regulations probably wouldn’t affect those businesses much. However, the new code would raise some of the building standards in the city, which might hurt developers that are building homes that only meet the minimum standard.
“We have developers who are opportunistic about the fact that our current ordinance written in 1987,” he said. “Those developers will probably have to step their game up quite a bit.”
The city is hoping these new rules will help it reach the goals set out in its comprehensive plan, but a bill moving through the Tennessee legislature could negate much of the new code.
Senate Bill 0520, sponsored by state senator Becky Massey of Knoxville, would prohibit counties or cities from regulating how one and tow family homes. The bill was introduced last year, but still hasn’t become law.
If residents tell the committee next week that they like the code, it could take effect as soon as April or May. The planning commission will vote on whether to adopt the rules related to subdivisions and will make a separate recommendation for the part of the code about zoning rules. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen will have to vote twice to adopt the new zoning rules.
The public meetings will take place in the courtroom at Spring Hill City Hall. The consultant that helped write the rules and members of the committee will be there to answer any questions.