Hickman County Times: Letters to the Editor – What kind of growth do we want here? (2/13/2023)

It is my great hope that we, the citizens of Hickman County, and especially our commissioners and county leaders, will carefully consider the long-term ramifications of the Water Authority of Dickson County being permitted to build a sewage treatment plant here in our beautiful county.

Some stated that this will provide a tool for much-needed “growth” in the county and that “growth is coming whether we like it or not.” It’s true, growth always will (and should) be a part of any community. If we’re not growing, we’re dying. The question is, what kind of growth do we want? And have we considered what this proposed growth will look like five years from now? Ten? Twenty?

My husband spent his life in Fairview and is fond of saying “four generations on the same piece of dirt.” I grew up in the Northeast and moved many times throughout my life but when I arrived in Tennessee, I knew I was finally home to stay. We planned to live, retire, and die on that “same piece of dirt.”

Fairview managed its water for years but ceded control to the WADC shortly before we built our home on family land. One of the first hurdles we encountered was the requirement to tap into the water and sewer systems. This was not optional and added a burdensome expense on top of already staggering building permit costs. We had available septic but were told that was not permitted due to the “available” sewer lines.

Have we considered the human cost of this “inevitable” growth for Hickman County? Sure, some will win, mainly developers, but some who have called this home for decades will lose, possibly everything. Some will be forced out by rising costs of living and higher taxes, and others will lose property to eminent domain.

In that brave new world, must we simply accept that some are “haves” and some will be “have nots?” Is this just the way things were meant to be? Are we prepared to say goodbye to our neighbors and friends for the sake of growth and progress?

Centerville is named a “Nashville’s Big Backyard” community, “a natural watershed region anchored by 100 miles of the Natchez Trace Parkway and made up of 12 connected communities with populations under 5,000 people.” It is significant to note that Dickson, Fairview, Spring Hill and Franklin are not on this list. They may have fast-food chains and big-box stores, but they don’t have what we do — unspoiled land and pristine waters — and, more importantly, they never will again.

Just because we desire a rural lifestyle does not mean we don’t want to see growth and progress. We want sensible growth that is thoughtfully planned and takes into consideration all our neighbors, their concerns, and protects them in their homes and on their land.

I often tell people we live “20 minutes from everywhere.” No, we don’t get to make a quick run to the store if we are out of bread or milk, but it’s okay because we knew this going in. We willingly chose this life. We chose what some consider “less convenient.” It’s funny how convenience always seems to end up not quite so convenient.

“Took me over an hour to get home today and I sure miss Sally, but have you been to the new Starbucks yet?” No, thanks. We have other places in town already with much better coffee, where the proprietors are neighbors and friends that we care about.

Sure, we can’t order tacos at 1 a.m. and have them delivered to our door but I can sit on my porch and not hear a car for hours. We have peace, and for many of us, it is a far more valuable commodity.

We left Fairview seven years ago because “growth and progress” turned it into a place we did not recognize. It’s time to dig deep and look at the true cost of convenience and growth because the decisions we make now will forever change Hickman County, and perhaps not for the better. Change is inevitable, yes, but what kind of change do we seek?

Do we really want communities slapped up by developers who will be gone before the dust settles? Do we want to look like everyone else? Hickman is a wonderful place with a lot of creative energy. We are capable of meaningful economic growth without resorting to cookie-cutter housing that stresses our infrastructure and obliterates everything unique about our community.

In a recent opinion piece in The New York Times, Margaret Renkl writes: “There is no simple way to banish the ennui of our age, but maybe it would help if we stopped looking at our own faces and turned instead to documenting the vanishing natural world in all its manifestations. Perhaps that change would change us in more essential ways, too. Would we finally learn to love the magnificent planet we were born to inhabit? Would we fight to save it?”

We can start by protecting our corner of it.


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