The State of Tennessee is the owner of several hundred thousand acres of Parks, Forests and Wildlife Management Areas. In addition to these important holdings the state also owns a dozen or more historic sites, including The Belle Meade Mansion and The Hermitage ( historical home of Andrew Jackson). There is no way to estimate the present worth of these resources, nor is there any easy way to estimate the total capital dollars the state has provided to these areas to build facilities and to maintain them.
Since the heyday of City Planning in the postwar ’50’s the State had granted to its cities and counties very generous authority to regulate land use. For the most part, the behavior of local planning agencies has been mostly to facilitate developmental activity as opposed to controlling it. The most beneficial aspects of this have been the adoption of subdivision regulations and better control of the expenditure of municipal capital dollars ( sewer and water facilities particularly). More recently some cities have become more aggressive in assessing impact fees as a method of assuring that developers pay the full cost of additional developed land.
The Tennessee State Planning Office (TSPO) has been one of the key tools which has been used by State Government to promote local planning efforts. This agency has been very productive in its tenure. This agency has promoted the wise expenditure of public dollars and the quiet regulation of land use.
I would offer that there is, however, at least one improvement which needs to be made in the Local Planning Act. The Legislature needs to provide the requirement that Local Government Planning Agencies use their powers to adequately protect Statewide Resources (those important Parks and Historic Sites which are owned by the State.
Consider the case of Radnor Lake State Natural Area. This State Park area in located in Metro Nashville/ Davidson County. The private properties which adjoin this park are zoned for land use by the Metropolitan Council as well as by the Cities of Oak Hill and Forest Hills. Several years ago a proposal was advanced to change the zoning of an adjoining parcel from Single Family Residential to a class of High Density Residential. This had the potential of having an adverse impact on the Park and its’ lake watershed. The decision to do this or not was in the hands of local officials. The State itself (who had the most at stake) had no seat at the decision- making table.
Other cases of interest are: Cedars of Lebanon State Park: Subdivision proposed to adjoin the Park,
Cumberland Mountain State Park: Adjoining private landowner creates car racing speedway within 100 yards of the previously quiet campground,
Cove Lake State Park: Private property owner adjacent to the parks’ campground installs a concession stand on his land and sells hot dogs through the fence,
Fall Creek Falls State Park: Park stream impacted by strip and deep mine coal mining.
It is clear that all of our significant statewide properties will always have neighbors. It is also clear that the State can not afford to buy all the land that might be required to provide adequate buffer areas so as to protect these areas from adjacent development.
I would urge the Legislature to pass legislation which requires Counties and Municipalities to include in their local planning scheme provisions to protect State Lands and Resources from inappropriate adjoining landuses. Such a Bill was introduced into the Legislature by former State Senator Ronnie Greer some years ago. It need to be brought back up and passed!!!