THE “NEW NORMAL” IN DEVELOPMENT
In our hometown of Franklin, TN in Williamson County, multiple Home Owner’s Associations are banding together in order to organize a more potent and impactful group who would have a larger say in new development projects within the city and the county.
What is different about this you may ask? Well the difference is that this is not Cambridge, Massachusetts, Bellingham, Washington or Marin County, California, this is Williamson County Tennessee. For those of you who do not know Williamson County, it is a conservative enclave in the heartland of America. It is not a coastal community inhabited by rabid environmentalists, there were not large groups of Bernie Sanders supporters last spring and the Trump/Pence signs outnumber the Clinton/Kaine signs.
Williamson County has over the years gone out of its way to attract and retain new businesses into the county, Nissan’s North American Headquarters, Tractor Supply, Corrections Corporation of America, Community Health Systems and Verizon Wireless are examples.
But even in this conservative, business friendly county, residents are organizing to oppose new development. This is the “new normal”, in the business world, there are no more “safe” areas of the country where developers can just make community benefit deals and push their projects through with little or no community input. Over time, due in large part to the internet, people are communicating more and in different ways. Someone who has an opposition group in Mesa, Arizona can share organizing tips and ideas in an instant from a group in Nantucket, Massachusetts.
The goal, as stated in the article is organize larger numbers of voters, wield more political power and therefore have more of a say in development matters. This group is even discussing forming a Political Action Committee, (PAC), which ultimately is designed with the intention of raising money to influence legislation. The legislation they would impact first would likely be on the local level, where most decisions are made regarding a development project.
Countless times over the years we have seen opposition groups get their members elected to the city council or appointed to the Planning Board, this is just extending that arm.
The “New Normal” is here. businesses, regardless of the type of development they are proposing are going to have to work with these groups, get them involved earlier in the process before anything is filed with the city or county. You need to seek their input before you submit your application, educate them on what you are trying to do and the benefits that your project brings.
A smart company will conduct a political assessment prior to investing resources in order to identify the political landmines that they may be facing and to successfully navigate the politics involved in getting the needed permits. You are going to have to organize supporters and have them demonstrate that support for your applications going forward.
This is the “new normal”.