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County development at local ‘expense?’

Zoe Haggard
Posted 1/25/22

There are two sides here for me: I don’t want to use dirt roads, but I hate to see houses in the cornfield. I can speak from observation.  

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County development at local ‘expense?’

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There’s a song I often think about whenever I pass construction sites tearing up a field:  

“Now these times have changed since my young life / I never thought I’d see the day / There’s houses in the corn field ‘round a falling down barn / And the old dirt road was paved.” (“Stone Walls” by Three Tall Pines)  

There are two sides here for me: I don’t want to use dirt roads, but I hate to see houses in the cornfield. I can speak from observation.  

I hail from Nolensville. Nolensville populated quickly but neglected necessary infrastructure like roads and safe sidewalks. Before Nolensville, my family hailed from Savannah. But Savannah grew before it could develop, deepening the poverty rate as jobs became nonexistent.  

So, as I work and spend more and more time in Bedford County, I watch with my breath held back.  

Within this past year, I’ve attended many City and County events, talked with members of the Shelbyville Woman’s Club, veteran associations, local GOP and Democratic meetings, and the same questions get circulated around: Will County leaders over-develop this place, so residents no longer recognize where they are? Or will the County continue to grow and become unable to support its citizens?  

The cynical would say, “Don’t develop so they won’t come,” while the optimist will say, “Build it and they will come.”  

I believe the solution lies in focusing on what we have and what we need— not what we want.  

For example, according to “Building Tennessee’s Tomorrow: Anticipating the State’s Infrastructure Needs,” a report conducted by Tennessee Advisory Commission for July 2018 to June 2023, Bedford County has a total estimated cost for infrastructure improvements of $252,094,970.  

The top three needs, which include planning, design, and construction costs, are:  

- Transportation at $117,981,778  

- New Public Schools & Additions at $25,400,000  

- Water and Wastewater at $1,400,000  

For reference, broadband is 12th on the list of needs, housing is 15th, and the industrial site and park is 16th on the list. This report can be accessed at www.tn.gov/TACIR.  

Now, this isn’t saying those other infrastructure items aren’t needed because they very much are. But this does point to where our priority needs to be.  

Take care of what you have now before moving on to what you want.  

Our roads need help. Highway director Mark Clanton said during Tuesday, Jan. 11’s County Commissioner meeting that the five-year road repaving plan is going to be more like an eight or nine year one, while it will only be covering a tenth of the roads that need repaving.  

Ok, here’s a priority that’s being worked on. Good.  

Bedford County Schools director Dr. Tammy Garrett also said they have closed on land for the new elementary school, are fixing the wing at Community High School, and working on much-needed maintenance at the schools.  

Ok, here’s another priority that’s being worked on. Good.  

And now, City and County leaders are trying to get the 231 North Business Park underway to move the new Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Shelbyville facility there as well as other industrial businesses.  

Ok, good. But...  

Let’s prepare fully for what that will mean for Bedford Countians and the droves of people coming.  

Again, I am in no way against development. I am glad to see local business and community leaders investing time and money into Bedford for more opportunities in education, commerce, and amenities.  

But with Murfreesboro bursting at the seams and with progress marching down 231, how many years before that green space turns into another industrial park?  

Apparently, every human being on earth can fit onto a plot of land the size of Los Angeles. But we need our space.  

That’s something I love about living in Tennessee: there’s space. There are small farms, big farms, valleys, hills, dales, and hollers. It’s wonderful driving 10 minutes outside Shelbyville City limits and seeing green space with a herd of cattle or a couple horses. It’s a main reason why people move here—you get space at a relatively decent price (at least for now)

So, is wanting a Target in addition to Walmart, or a Chick-fil-a in addition to Zaxby’s, really worth giving up this land, space, and natural beauty? We must meet the demand of people moving here, but we must also exercise caution with where we develop.  

The City and County want another source of revenue, like through sales tax from the pockets of tourists. Ok, good.  

But Bedford County for many people is not a place just to make a profit. It’s home. For many, it’s a generational home. Let’s keep that in mind as we find what we need infrastructure-wise, like paving our dirt roads, and taking our time developing so as not to overrun the land with houses in the cornfield.  

I am only a Gen Z’er, so my perspective is that of a novice to economics. However, I hope to spark discussion on what’s best for Bedford Countians.  

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