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Public Chapter 1101

Public Chapter 1101 provided that counties and their associated municipalities were to develop countywide growth plans. These plans were to be developed and recommended by coordinating committees and submitted to the county commissions and the governing bodies of the municipalities within the county.  Counties and municipalities could either reject or ratify those plans.  Ratified plans were submitted to the Local Government Planning Advisory Committee (LGPAC) for approval.  County and municipal governments could declare an impasse if agreement could not be reached and have plan conflicts resolved by the Administration Procedures Division of the Secretary of State's Office.  Eleven county growth plan disputes were resolved by the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) panels, and in one case the growth plan was developed by an ALJ panel with the assistance of a consultant hired by the office.

By 2003, all 92 counties required to develop growth plans had done so, and all plans were subsequently approved by LGPAC—Davidson, Moore, and Trousdale continue to be exempt from PC 1101 because each has a consolidated metropolitan government.  Thirty counties have amended their initial plans, some multiple times.  For example, Wilson County amended its growth plan in response to a growth boundary expansion requested by one of its cities and a retraction requested by another.  Hamblen County amended its growth plan four times in the mid-2000s to allow Morristown to annex territory that was initially outside of its very narrowly drawn UGB.

The growth plans established Urban Growth Boundaries (UGBs) for municipalities, Planned Growth Areas (PGAs), and Rural Areas (RAs) for counties.  PC 1101 provided a sound basis for long-range planning for future growth and required that certain planning studies and land use and population projections be completed before proposing a UGB, PGA, or RA.  These requirements were an effort to link growth plans to existing general municipal and regional planning under Title 13.  For example, a UGB identifies the extent of a municipality’s regional planning area that can be approved under Title 13 for long-range planning and subdivision regulation enforcement.  A county PGA identifies the potential locations for new incorporated municipalities and shows where a county may direct urban type development as well as places for the generation of sales tax revenues.   A county RA identifies areas that may be reserved for low intensity development, agricultural land preservation, and environmental protection.

During the years leading up to the passage of PC 1101, there were many battles over annexation and incorporation of new municipalities.  PC 1101 was an attempt to settle those differences, though it was also an effort to encourage growth planning statewide.  Annexation remains a contentious issue for growth planning despite the passage of PC 1101 and subsequent legislation. 

Public Chapter 707, Acts of 2014, made significant changes to Tennessee’s annexation laws, eliminating annexation by ordinance without property owners’ consent.  As a result, municipalities can annex new areas by resolution only with the written consent of the proposed area’s property owner(s) or by referendum of the voters living in the area proposed for annexation.  Even for areas located within a municipality’s urban growth boundary as approved under its county growth plan, non-consensual annexation is now prohibited.  In 2017, the General Assembly passed another amendment to the annexation statutes.  Public Chapter 399 allows municipalities to annex territory that is not contiguous to the existing municipal boundary but is within the urban growth boundary if specified requirements are met.

The new restriction on annexation initially raised questions about the utility of urban growth boundaries, but UGBs still have value and purpose.  In particular, one municipality may not annex areas inside another municipality’s UGB.