Cooper: Nashville Needs Smart Growth
Jul 9, 2015
By Jim Cooper
July 9, 2015
In a beautiful, peaceful corner of Davidson County near Joelton, a Texas pipeline company wants to build a huge — and noisy — compressor station. Other pipeline companies are targeting other parts of Nashville.
These giant out-of-state corporations are hoping that we locals won't object. One bought full-page ads in Sunday's Tennessean to make us think they are good corporate citizens.
Everyone who lives in Nashville should be concerned about inappropriate, unmitigated industrial activities coming to our county. We want more jobs, but not at the cost of ruining our quality of life.
We need smart growth, not "dump-on-us" expansion.
Let's not settle for temporary construction jobs. With more than $2 billion in building permits issued in Nashville last year, we have lots of those.
We need more high-paying, permanent jobs. As the "it" city, we can afford to be choosy.
The sad truth is that most Southern states offer very little protection to local residents against abuse by out-of-state corporations.
We were once so desperate for growth that we took anything.
Tennessee, for example, used to allow deep-well injection of toxic chemicals into our soil.
Thankfully, we put an end to that.
Today, you may think that your home or farm is zoned only for "residential" or "agricultural" use, but watch out for next-door nightmares.
You are at risk if your neighbors want to sell their land to an eyesore or nuisance that harms your quality of life and lowers your property values.
For example, the swingers club was able to move to Madison, across the street from a Christian school, because it claims to be a "church."
I suggest two ways to judge new projects and to curb bad ones.
First, apply the Golden Rule.
Would the corporation's top executives want to live next to the facility they are forcing on us?
If it's not OK for them, why is it OK for us?
They usually live in places that would never allow the sort of facilities they are dumping on Tennessee.
Second, let's do a better job of protecting our neighborhoods and farms.
Local, state and federal government all have a role to play, but there is no substitute for local vigilance.
Projects that can't be stopped can often be moved to more suitable areas, or prevented from polluting.
For example, I was able to stop a cellphone tower from ruining a neighborhood in Donelson despite a federal law giving phone companies the power to pick their locations.
Most Tennesseans are only one greedy landowner away from forcing us to live next to a garbage dump, chemical plant, incinerator, rock quarry, junkyard or other nuisance.
To protect our quality of life, we need local zoning laws with teeth.
Today's laws don't even have gums.
Tennessee's greatness results from our ability to work together to solve problems.
We are business-friendly and want to attract more jobs, but not at the price of ruining what we already have.
Smart growth means progress, not regress.