Tonight's City Council meeting will have the presentation of the Executive Summary for Amending the Gallatin Urban Growth Boundary. Recommending to EXPAND the UGB. If you just read the report for tonight, you would think that we need this expansion, and that is what is recommended. BUT that is not the case. If you have been paying attention to what is happening, and watching our City Council, you probably remember that council requested the city planner to do the current report after they rejected his first report from February. That first report recommended SHRINKING the UGB by 22%. Why the change? Well, Gallatin City Council rejected the recommendation of the professionals and decided that we should not shrink the UGB, but we should expand it. The reason? "We might need it." Is this SMART GROWTH? Or is this a council more concerned about their developer buddies, and their own benefits, rather than being concerned about what is best for us, the City of Gallatin?
On February 25, 2020, the City Planner presented the recommendation of shrinking the UGB because we have used less land than projected, yet had exceeded the population projection.
"Gallatin adopted the Urban Growth Boundary along with other Sumner County municipalities and the County in 2000. The Urban Growth Boundary was intended to represent an area necessary to accommodate the growth of the City for the next 20 years. Gallatin was projected to have a population of 35,617 by 2O2O according to the US Census Bureau."
The current population of the City is estimated at 44,332. This far exceeds the projected population, yet we have used far less land than was anticipated.
From the February report: "Based on future population projection and the amount of land needed to accommodate urban growth including lands for residential, commercial, industrial, and recreation activities, a revised Urban Growth Boundary is proposed. While the City and the surrounding area will continue to grow, new development will occur within the existing city limits and on specifically identified properties in close proximity to the city, particularly on properties that are serviced with central water and sewer systems and within a four minute response time to existing and proposed fire stations…in most cases properties identified as Rural Community in the 2020 Plan are not needed to meet the projected population for the next 20 years. Therefore, the City proposes to reduce the size of the Urban Growth Boundary to promote a more compact urban growth pattern to allow for additional growth, preserve rural areas, including environmentally sensitive areas, and to control the cost of extending and maintaining public infrastructure and providing municipal services. The proposed UGB area will comprise 40,606.1 acres or 53.44 square miles, which is a 22 percent reduction in the size of the Urban Growth Boundary"
This makes sense. This is reasonable. This is fiscally responsible. This follows the law. (Yes, there are laws that dictate what should be done regarding UGB).
The stated purposes of the Urban Growth Boundary laws are: "(1) Eliminates annexation or incorporation out of fear; (2) Establishes incentives to annex or incorporate where appropriate; (3) More closely matches the timing of development and the provision of public services; (4) Stabilizes each county's education funding base and establishes an incentive for each county legislative body to be more interested in education matters; and (5) Minimizes urban sprawl."
Our city planner's first report followed these purposes. The council rejecting his recommendation did not. "We might need it", is poor planning and opens the door for overextending ourselves financially.
The area being added into the UGB is approximately 850.5 acres in the Ocana area, including the site of the new Liberty Creek School complex. In February, at the council meeting, our Mayor Paige Brown said the County Executive specifically asked that this school be included in Gallatin's urban growth boundary.
The current report being presented at tonight's meeting summarizes the city providing resources to service the territory and cost projections of core infrastructure needed to provide the services.
"The report indicates that the cost to provide city infrastructure to areas of the UGB not served by a full service utility provider will exceed $11,747,000 (2020 $). this includes extending central water and/or trunk sewer line with lift stations into areas of the City not currently serviced or under-served with both central potable water and trunk central sewer services…The Fire Department indicates that three new fire halls (#6, #7, and#8) will be needed to service the city as it grows. Two of these stations (#6 and #8) will be needed based on expansion of urban development within the UGB…Projected costs for these two additional fire stations is $6,000,000''.
For a city that is growing as fast as Gallatin, it would be prudent to let things fill out in our already annexed areas for the next 20 years. I am in favor of the first recommendation of shrinking Gallatin's UGB. This will save the city and the citizens money. We have enough already approved residential development to accommodate the projected population for the next 20 years, at which time the growth plan and UGB will need to be revisited anyway. The mayor said we are struggling to accommodate what we already have. We have allowed so many annexations recently, pushing the borders of the city at all corners. If we continue to push the borders, we will continue to struggle. So many of our city services are stretched thin. And this is not the fault of any City Employee. This is the fault of city council approving things that require this stretch. Our trash service is stretched, our recycling is losing money, our firemen are underpaid, we need to borrow money to maintain our roads. It would make more sense for council to shrink the UGB in order to control the cost of extending and maintaining public infrastructure and providing municipal services.
Part of smart growth is knowing when to trim things back. If we keep overextending, we will continue to struggle. Trimming back the UGB is the smart thing to do for Gallatin.