Rural Spring Hill

The Spring Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted last week to alter the city's agriculture zoning districts to allow for the construction of one single-family home per 15 acres, with an exception made for properties smaller than 15 acres.

Aldermen Hazel Nieves and John Canepari had voiced opposition to the proposal, arguing that the change could hurt the city's rural character, whereas the proposal's supporters argued the change would actually protect the city's rural character.

But how will the change actually affect the city? The answer, of course, is in the details.

City Attorney Patrick Carter said during last week's meeting that residents who owned land zoned for agricultural purposes were permitted to build single-family homes on their property prior to the city's adoption of the Unified Development Code in 2018.

The change, argued Alderman Trent Linville, would not only restore that right, but protect the city's rural character by decreasing the allotted density of permitted homes. Linville further argued that this change would disincentivize agricultural landowners who wanted to construct a home on their property from requesting a zoning change, opening the door up for that property to be flooded with higher-density housing in the future.

Per the city's zoning ordinance after the 2018 adoption of the UDC, single-family homes were not permitted to be constructed on land zoned for agricultural use. As of Nov. 23, the city has a total of 46 land parcels zoned for agricultural, a majority of them on the Maury County side of Spring Hill.

With the new change, which passed last week in a vote of 6-2, single-family homes will be allowed to be constructed on property zoned for agriculture use, with an allotted density of one home per 15 acres. The exception allows for smaller land parcels zoned for agricultural to also have a home constructed on them at a minimum size of five acres.

City Administrator Pam Caskie also pointed out that landowners who had homes constructed on land zoned for agricultural use prior to the adoption of the UDC would be limited in their ability to rebuild in the case of destruction of property, or to expand. To do so, Caskie said, would require a rezoning of the property — and costly and arduous process.

The purpose of land zoned for agricultural use did not change with the amendment, and is still defined as being limited to "promoting and protecting agricultural land." The sole difference would be the ability to develop a single-family home with the allotted density of one home per 15 acres.

For comparison, the city of Franklin also allows homes to be constructed on agricultural land at an allotted density of one home per 15 acres. The city Brentwood's equivalent zoning — Agricultural Residential — allows for one home to be constructed for every three acres.