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THOMPSON'S STATION — At the end of a hot August afternoon, dozens of people gathered in the Thompson’s Station Community Center, a mid-century looking gathering space situated across from Town Hall, attached to the beloved Circa restaurant.
In that room, community stakeholders where invited to learn and give input on updates to the small town's growth plan.
Town Mayor Corey Napier introduced attendees to the county's efforts to update its longstanding growth plan by next year.
"We've got to have a plan that makes sense and one that we can afford," he said. "I ran on a controlled growth, growth without regret platform, and we've got to have a plan that makes sense and that we can afford.
"And so we sit here today, with people moving here every day from Illinois, California, points in between.... They want a piece of what's going on in this place called greater Nashville, and Williamson County is a part of that puzzle."
Napier has been mayor since 2008 and a resident of Thompson's Station for over 20 years. He won his last election by 11 votes.
Thompson’s Station, sitting just south of Franklin, is currently Williamson County’s smallest municipality. But its growth rate may be one of the highest.
According to U.S. Census data, Between 2000 and 2016, its population grew by roughly 260% from 1,283 to 4,626. And between 2016 and 2020 by over an additional 61% to 7,485 people.
In 2018, Thompson's Station was named one of Tennessee's fastest growing cities alongside neighboring Spring Hill.
Although small, the town is home to Mars Petcare's Global Innovation Center and located less than 15 miles from its headquarters and the campuses of Nissan North America and Schneider Electric, all located in Franklin.
As part of the county’s “Williamson 2040” comprehensive land use plan, all municipalities, including Thompson’s Station, are now planning how and where they want to grow.
Williamson County's urban growth boundaries, which dictate where municipalities can develop land past their boundaries, haven’t been updated since 2001 despite a doubling of the county’s population since then.
Expanding them isn't as easy as it may seem — municipalities must consider where they're physically and financially able to expand public utilities and services.
"As people move here and they ask for services, whether its septic, sewer, water, electricity, roads or schools, all those things are expensive amenities and we have to fund them," Napier said. "We have to fund them, and we have to have a better discussion as a community with all the high growth to afford those amenities if we want to continue to be a desirable destination to live, work, play or retire."
Another big consideration is the desires of county residents, across municipalities, towns, villages and hamlets.
For Thompson’s Station, this includes hearing directly from residents inside and outside of the city's boundaries. The town's planning office has hosted two public meetings thus far.
Town planner Micah Wood said his hope is to ensure the community knows about the town’s planning efforts and that they have a say in how the locale grows.
Before coming to Thompson’s Station, he worked in planning in Franklin and Columbia and was also a planning consultant for the state serving the Middle Tennessee region. He’s seen Williamson's explosive growth firsthand and has led many public engagement efforts throughout his career.
"A lot of people are exhausted by the amount of growth that's been happening in Williamson County for a long time," Wood said. "So we really want people to be engaged in this process because it's going to set our growth trajectory for potentially the next 20 years."
"There's so much development in Williamson County, we kind of have to be proactive on these kinds of planning matters."
Thompson's Station's permit technician Jennifer Banaszak said many who attended the public meeting were those who currently live in unincorporated areas surrounding Thompson's Station, like Bethesda and Burwood.
These residents were most concerned about forced annexation and an increase in taxes as a result, as well as losing the rural character of their sprawling communities....
.... "Your land is your land, and if you decide you want to be annexed into Thompson's Station, that's a discussion we can have," he (Micah Wood) said. "By being part of our urban growth boundary or where we plan to grow over time does not necessarily mean the landowner has to come into our town."
If the opportunity arises, residents will have an option to be annexed and take advantage of the expanded services provided by municipalities. Early planning helps the town be prepared in case more people desire services and the still small town experiences another population boom.
-- per Anika Exum a reporter for the Tennessean covering Williamson County
See the link provided for the full article at The Tennessean.