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Officials: Shelbyville needs guidance for growth

Posted on Wednesday, April 10, 2024 at 7:55 am


“Rules and regulations do not make a person correct, they only make them consistent.” – Calvin Coolidge

Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States from 1923 to 1929, was not known for being quotable, but his words helped to sum up a two-hour-plus called meeting last week between the Shelbyville City Council and the Shelbyville Planning Commission to discuss growth and development in the City.

Vice-Mayor William Christie presided over the meeting. Mayor Randy Carroll has been ill. Council members Stephanie Isaacs and Bobby Turnbow were not present. Turnbow, a lineman, was called away for emergency work in Portland, Maine.

Waleed Albakry, director of planning and community development for the City of Shelbyville, was the facilitator. From 2019 to 2023, 1,950 lots have been approved in Shelbyville. More than 2,500 residential units and more than 100,000 in commercial space is in the planning stages. Albakry is looking for direction in dealing with housing density and control of future development.

“It was indeed a valuable opportunity to discuss the current status of development and growth in Shelbyville,” Albakry said. “Our main goal for the meeting was to facilitate an open dialogue between the Council and the Planning Commission, allowing both parties to voice their concerns and share potential ideas for aligning our regulations with the current level of growth in our city.”

Increased guidance needed

Council member Henry Feldhaus expressed the need for the development of a long-range plan.

“Waleed is looking for real guidance to help with housing density and to formulate better expectations,” Feldhaus said. “Unfortunately, our leadership is too shortsighted to create a working group for new regulations. They can only react to complaints after the ‘horse is out of the barn.’

“My goal would be to force all stakeholders to meet monthly and arrive at common goals. Our growth is a serious issue, and we need to devote the time and energy toward developing the vision of the community.”

Planning Commission member Dawn Gonzales, was one of the most outspoken representatives present for the meeting. She stressed growth is coming and she wants the city to be prepared for what is ahead.

“The growth is going to be astronomical, and it is coming, and it is coming fast,” Gonzales said. “I think the general populace of Shelbyville doesn’t understand growth is coming whether they like it or not.

“Nolensville had the same consensus –‘we’re a small town and we want to stay a small town.’ They said they didn’t want the growth. They wanted to send it away. But there is no way to send it away. It is coming whether we like it or not.”

Developers like Shelbyville

As Metropolitan Nashville continues to undergo a growth explosion, outlying cities are also feeling the effects. Municipalities like Mount Juliet and Murfreesboro are prime examples along with Brentwood and Franklin.

Developers are looking for more areas to expand and like what they see in Shelbyville.

“Developers have found Shelbyville as an easy target for development and growth,” Gonzales said. “So this is where they are coming to build. I think we have to embrace the growth and get ahead of it.

“Nashville is already maxed out in the Metro area. They need places like Shelbyville for growth. In Murfreesboro land is very sparse. Out here we have a lot of land and it is not just here. Woodbury, Tullahoma, Columbia and all these outskirt areas are feeling the brunt of the overflow – what we call urban sprawl.”

Some cities, like Mount Juliet, placed a moratorium on growth. But City Attorney Ginger Shofner pointed out during the meeting the law has changed and that is no longer an option.

“The number one key point is we can’t really control the growth until we get development standards in writing,” Gonzales said. “Shelbyville is growing faster than we have the ability to get the codes and regulations in writing.

“Legally, we cannot tell a developer what they can and can’t do if they come in. It has to come from the City Council. Ginger has a really good base on what we are doing here. I am glad she is on our board. She keeps us in check on what we can and cannot do legally.”

Time to prepare

It takes time to change rules, regulations and codes. The process includes public meetings and board approval two or three times before it can be standardized.

“Murfreesboro did a good job of getting that done before the developers came,” Gonzales said. “I think Shelbyville needs to be able to get it under control and allow the growth in a regulated manner.”

Albakry walked away from the meeting encouraged by what he heard on all sides of the issue.

“I’m pleased to say that the meeting was highly constructive,” Albakry said. “We had the chance to hear perspectives from both the Council and the Planning Commission, which provided valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities we face.

“Additionally, we were able to discuss potential strategies for addressing these issues and ensuring that our regulations allow us to manage growth and development in Shelbyville. Overall, I believe we walked away from the meeting with a clearer understanding of the issues at hand and a shared commitment to working together to address them effectively.”