County Growth Plans: Impediments to Amending Them

Amending growth plans can be a difficult and time-consuming process even if the change to the plan is a small one.  The procedures for amending the growth plan are the same as for the initial plan preparation, and the burden of proving the reasonableness or necessity of the amendment is on the party proposing the amendment.  A municipal mayor, the county mayor, or the county executive may propose an amendment by filing notice with the county mayor or county executive and each municipal mayor.  Upon receipt of the proposal, the county mayor or county executive is required to reconvene or re-establish the county coordinating committee within 60 days of receipt of the notice.  The coordinating committee must submit the amended plan to the respective legislative bodies within six months of the date of its first meeting to consider the amendment and two public hearings must be held in each area affected by the amendment.  As with the initial plans, amended plans require the approval of the legislative bodies affected by them and by the Local Government Planning Advisory Committee (LGPAC) in the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.  Although growth plans can be amended as often as deemed necessary, only 25 counties have done so.

Simplifying the amendment process has been discussed for cities that want to retract their UGBs, which may be the case for some of the 210 whose 2013 populations were smaller than was projected for 2010.  The General Assembly has considered legislation that would change the way growth plans can be amended, but none of those bills would have simplified the amendment process for cities that wanted to retract their boundaries.  For example, Senate Bill 613 by Yager and its companion, House Bill 135 by Keisling, introduced in 2013, would have established two different processes for changing growth plans.  The process for changing a UGB or PGA without affecting another UGB or PGA would have been similar to the process in current law for amending growth plans.  Everything else was called a revision and could have been done only once every seven years.  Revisions would have followed the same process as amendments except that convening the coordinating committee would have required approval either by the county legislative body or by the municipal legislative bodies representing at least half of the municipal population of the county, making revisions much more difficult than they are under current law.