Don't Drink The Koolaid ! "Plan Gallatin" is all about Nashville.
Did you know that Gallatin was established in 1802? We are 218 years old. History is important, we should not lose our history, and we should not lose our individuality of being Gallatin. I don't really think "they" want to change what Gallatin is, but that is what is happening. We are changing dramatically. What is going on? I mean, some change is expected, but everything is changing, this is not normal. I like Gallatin. We moved to Gallatin on purpose. We could have moved to Nashville (actually, we could have moved anywhere in the entire world), but we didn't. We liked Gallatin. We liked the historic downtown square, the small town feel, the open rolling landscape, the farmland. The old historic barns and homes that are part of that landscape. We moved here to be near family. My wife's parents live in Hendersonville. We could have moved to Hendersonville. But we liked Gallatin, it had more history. We live on Long Hollow Pike. This is known as one of the most scenic roads in Sumner County. Imagine how lucky we felt to find an historic home on Long Hollow Pike in Gallatin. This is one of the most beautiful places I have seen. And I have been to most of the countries in the world. Imagine our dismay when after one year of living here, our neighborhood began changing, being bulldozed, flattened, covered with apartment buildings and zero lot line homes. And within that same year, the entire City of Gallatin became a construction zone. Everywhere you go, something is being built. Houses, Roads, Freeways, Commercial Buildings, Apartments. Every empty corner and every field has a "for sale" sign. Gallatin is changing. Very quickly. My neighbors say it is too much too fast. Did you know that Gallatin is the 5th fastest growing small city over a population of 40,000 in the entire USA? According to the Gallatin Economic Development Agency, 270 people a month are moving into Gallatin. If we continue at our current rate of growth, the population will be 123,000 in 25 years.
What is "Plan Gallatin", and why does the city keep asking for our involvement? At this time, a 25 year long range growth plan is a required because the 2020 plan expires this year. Community involvement is required, so far there have been 6 meetings. Did you know that the city staff that are paid and required to be at the meetings signed in as participants. They are being included in the number of people attending these meetings. These meetings have not been well attended. I have been disappointed to see not many citizens at these meetings.
The city has been promoting 3 videos for the past week on Facebook about the online "Plan Gallatin" Town Hall on Thursday June 5th at 6pm. One video says "Gallatin is expected to grow from 25,000 households to more than 54,000 households in the next 25 years." I am not clear, do they mean that in 25 years we could be anywhere from 25,000 to more than 54,000? Did you know that Gallatin already has enough residences approved to be at 25,000 households? It is already done. Already approved. So the city cannot mean that they want our input at that level, they already have it in place. If Gallatin did not approve another home, no more apartments, no more houses, no more condos, no more townhomes, and just built the ones already approved, we would be able to accommodate a population of 60,000. Now if we go to 54,000 households, that represents a population of 129,000 people. (Today Gallatin has an estimated population of 42,000, which is approx 17,000 households). So that means our city would grow by 3X our current population in only 25 years. How can the projected growth rate be such a wide range? They are not controlling anything if this is what they are projecting. Even our Mayor Paige Brown said at her last State of the City address, that Gallatin is growing too fast. I have some questions because this doesn't make sense for her to say this. I mean, I think it is true, Gallatin is growing too fast. But why did SHE say that? Does she really believe it? Do the City Council believe that? If they believe that, then why are they not controlling the growth? Did you know that revisiting the UGB (urban growth boundary) is a required by TN state law to be part of this 25 year growth plan? Did you know that in February, our City Planner, Bill McCord presented the idea of shrinking the UGB in some areas to preserve rural farmland? Did you know that our City Council rejected that idea, but instead decided they wish to keep the existing UGB ,"in case we need it", and not only that, did you know that they also want to increase it, by adding in approximately 1,000 acres to the west to include the new Liberty Creek School complex and land south of it along Upper Station Camp Creek Road? Have any of your council people asked any of you - the citizens, what you want done regarding the UGB? How can only 7 people decide this for all of us? Why is the city council going against the recommendation of our city planner? Are they not concerned that "every year in Gallatin, 7 football fields of cropland is lost, and 10 football fields of tree canopy disappears"? (Quote from Plan Gallatin Video).
Did you know that Gallatin is actively seeking this growth? The city is not just "approving what comes our way". Gallatin is actively recruiting this growth with tax incentives to businesses, and through groups like the GNRC (Greater Nashville Regional Council), The EDD (Economic Development District for Northern Middle TN), The EDA (Gallatin Economic Development Administration), and Forward Sumner. What do all of these have in common? For one thing, they each view Gallatin as part of the Greater Nashville area. So is that why Gallatin is being called "Nashville's North Shore", instead of just being our self?
Did you know the GNRC is developing Gallatin's growth plan? Did you know that the GNRC's mission is "to assist local communities and state agencies in the development of plans and programs that guide growth and development in the most desirable, efficient, and cost-effective manner, while ensuring the continued long-term livability of the region." I have a question - Desirable for who? Desirable for me as a citizen of Gallatin, or desirable for the greater Nashville region, (with the goal of making Gallatin into a dormitory for Nashville)? I know what I desire, some property for my horse, some elbow room to have trees and open space. That is why I moved here, and that is the kind of property I have in Gallatin. Apparently the city thinks my desired lifestyle is a "tax burden". Watching these three videos is very interesting. Why are they pushing the compact development idea? Anyone can see how propaganda-like these videos are. Why the big sales pitch? One of them actually says "Large estate lots may be more aesthetically pleasing, but they are a higher tax burden. Higher density growth rates result in less traffic and more conservation of cropland and tree canopies." Wait a minute - that does not make ANY sense. Am I supposed to believe it because someone official said it? Who did the math? I like math, and this does not add up.
How can a Gentleman's Farm or a large Estate Lot be a tax burden? Let's use the example of a 5 acre gentleman's farm with one household, and compare it with a recent development now under construction, Kensington Row which is also 5 acres with 24 townhomes and 2 single family homes. Gallatin has an average of 2.4 people per household and 20% school age. So on the same 5 acres, the farm has 1/2 a kid and Kensington Row has 12 1/2 kids, the farm has 2 cars, and Kensington Row has 52 cars, the farm has a septic tank, and Kensington Row requires a city sewer line to be built and maintained for it. The farm has a long driveway, Kensington Row has a road and sidewalks that the city will maintain. Water usage for one household vs. water usage for 26 households on the same acreage equals more city personnel and services. More Police and Fire are needed for Kensington Row than the farm, and they will use the city parks more, because the farm is its own park.
Let's do an apartment comparison, because I have been told by Councilman Jimmy Overton that apartments bring in more taxes then single family homes. Since Estate Lots are more of a tax burden, I will compare the only current estate lot development in Gallatin. Langley Estates, with 18 single family lots on 27 acres. We have to look at family unit. A family unit is a family unit wherever they live in an apartment or in a single family residence. They are using the same roads, the same schools, the same Police Department, the same Fire Department, the same Sanitation facilities, the same water delivery system, the same everything. The family living in an apartment contributes 70% less in property taxes than the one living in an estate home, $352 vs $1,200.
The closest in acreage apartment complex is The Edison at Peytona Downs, 304 units on 21 acres. The funniest thing to me is the traffic statement. "Higher density growth rates result in less traffic", this is ridiculous on its own. Obviously 36 cars is less traffic than 608 cars. I realize that they are making this statement in the context of sprawl, using the premise of using the same math comparing 608 cars in an apartment complex on 27 acres with 608 cars on 304 one-acre lots . But I still disagree. Gallatin's traffic will not decrease until it has urban city jobs for people to walk to. As long as people are commuting to Nashville, it does not matter if those 608 cars are all sleeping in an apartment complex on 27 acres or on one acre lots spread out around town. They are all driving on the same roads into Nashville. Actually, traffic will be less if we use up the land with one acre lots. But that doesn't match the mission of the GNRC to ensure the continued long-term livability of the region.
Is "Plan Gallatin" about Gallatin? Is this about what the citizens of Gallatin want? Or is this about what Nashville wants?
I keep hearing that people want good paying jobs here in Gallatin, and not to have to commute to Nashville. Gallatin is actively recruiting technology companies (Data Centers like Archer Data Center and Facebook aka Woolhawk Data Center). The Facebook Data Center will provide 40 badged jobs, and 100 contract jobs. These are good jobs, but not a lot of jobs, only 140 on a large 800 acre campus. How much land is that in football fields? 800 acres is 606 football fields! Ok, wait - aren't we concerned about disappearing cropland and tree canopy? Why did Gallatin do a video trying to guilt trip those of us that don't want to live in compact growth areas? It implied that we are the ones causing this disappearing land. The exact quote is "Every year in Gallatin, the equivalent of 9 football fields of paved surfaces is gained, 7 football fields of cropland is lost, and 10 football fields of tree canopy disappears. We can alter this trend with another option called compact growth where new homes and businesses are developed in high density areas to conserve land." And yet, Gallatin and Sumner County actively recruited Facebook to build a data center here on cropland. Did you know that the City and the County purposely broke a 75 year old trust for this data center project? 369 acres of farmland was left in a trust to be used for agricultural research in perpetuity. It was to go to the UT for agricultural purposes after the last living heir died. But this land was next to the industrial center, and would bring in more tax dollars by zoning it industrial. When our city does this and then tells me that we need compact housing development to preserve cropland and tree canopy, how am I supposed to believe that? When our city council rejects the idea of shrinking the UGB because we might need the land in the future, how am I supposed to believe they want to preserve anything?
To preserve land, you need to preserve it. It is not possible to preserve cropland by development unless you put in place requirements to preserve a certain amount of land for every amount developed, and we are not doing this. The quote from the video is absurd, "If we increase density or group certain residences and businesses together, fewer acres of agricultural land will be affected. Do we allow growth all over, or group things together?" This reminds me of what Van Oldham said when describing the Meadows development to the City Council. He said that his company, Green LID design, stood for Low Impact Development. He stated that developments like the Meadows, which grouped high density residences and commercial together actually helped preserve land. This SOUNDS good, but it is only half of the solution. If you develop the 384 acre Meadows development, but do not at the same time actively preserve land somewhere else, you are actually doing the opposite. When any high density development goes into a rural area, surrounded by neighbors who want rural farmland, you change the character of the area, the neighbors move away, and their land then also gets developed.
If the goal is to preserve cropland and tree canopy, then preserve it. If the goal is to develop, then why is our city saying "we can preserve by doing high density development"? Is this just a ploy to make us think they want to preserve? Several times I have suggested the idea that developers be required to contribute to parks. What about the idea that with every acre of development, our city must equally preserve an acre of cropland or tree canopy?
As one citizen said a few months ago at a city council meeting, " Are we killing the goose that laid the golden egg?" The land should not just be seen as a cash register for tax revenue and development revenue. I encourage you to participate in the on-line "Plan Gallatin" meeting Thursday, June 4 at 6PM. Details on the Gallatin City Website.