Each year the Nashville Business Journal recognizes 25-30 folks in Davidson and the surrounding counties as “Impact” Award Winners. These community leaders represent a broad base of constituencies, businesses, organizations, development, governments, and other persons making an impact in their communities. Last week I was reading thru the bios and remarks from those who were nominated in Williamson County this year. Each were asked the same question; “what does Williamson County lack” to make it an even better place to call home. It’s no secret that Williamson County is an awesome place to live, shop, work and play. In fact, the county seat of Franklin was just recognized as one of the best small towns in the entire country to live.
Given that the population of Franklin is over 66,000 (2012 Census est.) and the population of Mt Juliet is less than half that many, it will likely be many years before we reach that number of residents. I found their responses to that question to be particularly interesting, and it would be wise to learn from our neighbors to the south since they have been around just a bit longer than we have. A bit of perspective: the Battle of Franklin took place in November of 1864 (nearly 150 years ago!) and we have been an incorporated city for just over 40 years. If we truly aspire to take advantage of all of our wonderful assets and to truly become the very best we can be, let’s take a look at what they feel they are lacking to make sure we don’t end up in the same place one day.
Perhaps by thinking about a time many, many years from now and planning accordingly we will not lack for the same things? Of the 28 Impact Award Winners, there were a few areas that seemed to stick out amongst the others. In fact, four of the things deemed most lacking by these leaders were a comprehensive transportation plan, affordable housing, and bike / walking trails and local access to higher education. Those would seem to be relatively easy “fixes”, except that when you really drill down to make them happen there are many challenges and obstacles standing in the way. While bike lanes and walking trails sound easy, stop for a minute to think about who pays for them, who cedes the land for them, who maintains them, and how do they mix and intersect with vehicular traffic? Roads are very expensive and adding even a few feet can have a huge impact on a stretch of road that is not even very long. Businesses often have only inches left on setbacks in order to meet the requirements for parking places. Mass transit and traffic will only become more challenging as we grow. Where will roads be built, how wide will they be, and who pays for them?
When is the “right time” to start adding dedicated pullovers to our major arteries to one day allow busses, trolleys, taxis, and even horse-drawn carriages (okay, maybe we don’t get these) to pull over to pick up riders so as not to hold up an entire lane of traffic? (Even Cancun, Mexico has these so the impact of loading and unloading of bus riders is greatly reduced). As for local access to higher education, we are doing well so far and this topic remains in the forefront of development discussions and recruitment efforts. Affordable housing is a whole other ballgame and one we must pay attention to it if we truly want to be a place that people from all walks of life can call home. In all of our prosperity and growth, let’s not end up one of these days where our public servants, students, employees, young adults, and retired persons are excluded from affordable housing.