The Wilson County Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve a revised final plan for a subdivision development on Hearn Hill Road southeast of Watertown at its meeting Friday.
Residents had campaigned against the development for months, citing safety concerns about area road width, before the original item was narrowly defeated in January.
“We had a preliminary plat approved and went through the proper channels,” Paul Crockett of Crockett Surveying said. “I’ve been coming up here 40 years and never had a final denied after the preliminary was approved. Our smallest lot is over 2 ½ acres.”
Crockett removed the two largest of the nine lots originally submitted for approval, but residents living on nearby County Line Road said the changes were not enough.
“We’ve shared a lot about this road, and it’s really a lot less about seven lots or nine lots, whatever the number,” Christine Fisher said. “Hearn Hill Road is a one-lane road … what happens if you come up on that vehicle and they don’t give way? What will you do? Because there’s an embankment on one side you can’t see over it, so if you get to that point when they’re coming you can’t see them at all. One lane, where are you going to go: the ditch, the embankment or the other car?”
Dave Lawrence, who represents the estate carrying the property, said he understands the issues with the road but feels growth will bring infrastructure to support it.
“Progress happens,” he said. “When I was a kid, there was no interstate, and when you went through Mt. Juliet it was smaller than Watertown. If more people are on this road, there’s a better chance that road’s going to be improved.”
District 9 County Commissioner Sara Patton, whose district includes the property, said she has received no indication Hearn Hill Road would be widened.
“I did talk to the county about the road, there’s no way they’re going to widen that road,” she said. “I talked to the state, there’s no way they’re going to help with widening that road. We have searched all avenues as far as widening this road. The only thing that’s going to help … is if they increase the size of these lots to at least 5 acres.”
Wilson County Planning Director Tom Brashear said there is no 5-acre zoning district in the county, partially because 5 acres is the cutoff where the planning commission loses authority to review documents.
“I’ll freely admit there appears to be narrow sections of this road, including some of the bridges,” he said. “They may not be on this road, they’re on County Line Road, but I get that’s the way through from Hearn Hill to Sparta Pike. But it’s a public road … they have the same rights to exercise what they’re allowed to do under their current zoning district as long as they meet the subdivision requirements.”
The commission also unanimously approved a plat for a five-lot subdivision on property owned by Horse Thief Hollow. The item was on the agenda as a preliminary plat but approved as a final plat.
Horse Thief Hollow owns approximately 2,000 acres of property in the vicinity of Hearn Hill Road, so the same residents opposed to that subdivision spoke out against the development.
After hearing their concerns, planning commission member John Jewell said he is wary of denying a plat based on road conditions and setting a precedent.
“If you start regulating development by the conditions of the road, you are going to institute a massive change in the way this county evolves,” he said. “Understand the massive implications that has for farming, or for anything. All of a sudden one day, certain trucks can’t go down certain roads, certain width vehicles can’t go down certain roads. You’ve got to straighten this curve out, you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that.”
As it stands, locals fear further expansion in the area could lead to traffic fatalities.
“Look at Highway 109, folks,” Mike Bradford said. “How many people have been killed on that highway before they started this project they’ve got going on out there now? Do you wait until people die, until you lose your child, your wife, your husband, before you develop roads?”