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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for July 18, 2023


All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.


Spring Hill will expand Urban Growth Boundary (MS Maury)


Spring Hill planners and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen have voted to favorably recommend a plan for its Urban Growth Boundaries (UGB), along with all other Williamson County municipalities.


The last time the county’s UGB was updated was 2001.


“The UGB should be reevaluated at least every twenty years to account for infrastructure improvements, market trends, growth patterns, and other changes that have occurred,” city staff wrote in their memo to the city’s boards. “The Urban Growth Boundary is a long-range planning tool to ensure cities are strategically planning to extend services as growth occurs. Additionally, the UGB thoughtfully identifies areas future growth areas to ensure that the character and land uses developed within the exterior boundaries of the city in congruous manner with the City of Spring Hill.”


The city began the process of planning for an update in 2021, holding a public meeting in October of that year.


“To determine the proposed boundary of the Williamson County, Spring Hill UGB city staff utilized current development trends, water sewer capacity development requirements, analyzed existing drainage basins based on topography, development of the I-65 interchange at June Lake Blvd., consideration of adopted planning documents (such as but not limited to the 2040 Spring Hill Rising Comp Plan), and the continuity of the currently adopted Maury County UGB with any additional UGB established within Williamson County,” the memo reads.


Residents of Spring Hill, however, expressed concern at both the planning commission meeting and the meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.


"We do not want to be in the UGB, and don't understand there are any benefits for us to be in the UGB, or to be considered for annexation," Jeff Harris, a Barker Road resident, said. "We want to be removed from this, because we moved to this area to not be part of a city, to not be part of anything other than the county.”


A UGB, however, only designates areas targeted for future growth, but does not annex property into the city – even if adopted.


"We know that growth is going to occur, and we want to ensure that that growth occurs in a way that the city can create as part of our city pattern. What that means is we want to ensure the city grows in the way we want it to, and that we can be responsible with that growth," Spring Hill Development Director Peter Hughes said. "The UGB is just identifying that area for us to move forward with and plan for. That's the reason why we are doing this.


"All it is doing is identifying areas for future growth to occur, and for the city to invest resources and strategically plan to make sure when services are needed, they are in place in those areas,"


Alderman Matt Fitterer added to Hughes’ comments to clarify that property owners must request annexation in order to become part of the city.


"This does not affect anyone who owns property, or who might own property, within the UGB. This only allows us to appropriately plan for infrastructure that might or might not be needed in the future," Fitterer said. "Annexation in Tennessee can only be done at the property owner's request, and there is absolutely nothing the city can do to annex any of this property.


“To say growth will or won't head that way is totally up to the landowners, or future land owners, and not the city."


This plan will now go before a state governing committee, along with others from Williamson County, to be approved or denied.


Columbia City Council approves addition of 765 homes off Trotwood Avenue (MS Maury)

The Columbia City Council approved by a 4-2 vote last week a proposed rezoning of a portion of Tax Map 112 Parcel 9, located at 6150 Trotwood Avenue.

The rezoning would allow for the future development of residential homes as part of the proposed Old Zion Road Planned Unit Development (PUD) subdivision, which would consist of 765 homes on over 400 acres. The plan would lay adjacent to Ridley Park and the neighborhood Ashwood Manor.

Both residents and local officials took the opportunity at the July 13 meeting to express their concerns over the rezoning, including District 2 Commissioner and County Commission Chair Eric Previti, who lives nearby.

Previti said his main concerns have to do with safety and transportation.

"If something happened where they have fixed a bridge or widened a piece of the road, that's great, but what about when something happens in the section they haven't done anything to?" Previti asked, bringing up potential hazards officers would face to get down the road.

Last month, Fire Chief Ty Cobb shared his worries regarding the two-lane road on Trotwood.

“It is harder for emergency vehicles to get around,” Cobb admitted during the city's June 8 voting meeting. “I think about residents. If there is a vehicle that has broke down, they would be in the way of traffic.”

District 8 Commissioner Gabe Howard shared the same sentiments, also pointing out concerns brought up by Chief Cobb.

"First and foremost, our trusted fire chief has sounded the alarm on numerous occasions, identifying this as a public safety issue," Howard said. "The fire chief's concerns validate his repeated warnings to this body that I have seen firsthand others try to negate."

Howard also stated the plan threatens to disrupt the rural character of Maury County.

"The character defines us, differentiates us and gives us a sense of community and belonging," he said. "The density of housing in the proposal is far too great and threatens to obliterate the separation between cities, which is so critical in maintaining what makes our county beautiful and unique."

Applicant Brandon Baxter assured the council the project has changed and evolved over the past 24 months of planning.

"It's different than a year-and-a-half, two years ago," Baxter said. "The stretch of Trotwood Avenue between our proposed access and the improvements on that and our western property that's closer to Yeatman Lane, related to the condition of that shoulder. We will scrape the vegetation off of that shoulder that has caused it to erode a little bit and put it back to a more usable shoulder."

Baxter also said developers are committed to install a traffic signal at Polk Place and Trotwood, which he said will be done in the first phase of development

Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder made a motion to approve the ordinance on second consideration, acknowledging the concerns of citizens.

"We talk a lot about smart growth and what that looks like," Molder said. "Nobody really knows the definition of smart growth because everybody has their own opinion on what growth looks like."

"At the end of the day, we've heard from our city engineer on the roadway conditions and the roadway improvements. We've heard his comfort level regarding the width of the roads and the ability for vehicles to travel," he said.

The project will also consist of three miles of trails and the development of a trail head in Ridley Park.

Tennessee AG Skrmetti opposes rule change aimed at protecting abortion health records (Tennessean)


Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti wants the state to be able to investigate and compel information on out-of-state abortions, according to a letter he co-signed with 18 other Republican attorneys general in response to a White House-backed federal rules change that would further shield reproductive health medical records.


Skrmetti last month signed on to the letter, which was authored by Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch and addressed to Secretary Xavier Becerra of the federal Department of Health and Human Services.


The proposed rule would prohibit the use or disclosure of protected health information to "investigate, or prosecute patients, providers, and others involved in the provision of legal reproductive health care, including abortion care."


Fitch's letter argues the rule would "unlawfully interfere with states' authority to enforce their laws" and calls it a "solution in search of a problem."


"HHS does not have authority to change the law in contradiction of the statute passed by Congress," Skrmetti spokesperson Elizabeth Lane said in a statement Monday.


The letter was first reported by nonprofit news outlet Mississippi Today.


HHS held an open comment period as part of the proposed rule change, which the Biden administration first floated in April in response to a wave of abortion restrictions that arose in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last summer overturning the constitutional right to an abortion. Abortion restrictions often vary widely from state to state.


Medical records are protected by some federal privacy laws but are still subject to court orders, and states currently can investigate out-of-state care. Top prosecutors like attorneys general also have other legal tools at their disposal to compel providers to turn over medical records for investigatory purposes, such as the recent wide-reaching investigative net cast by Skrmetti into Vanderbilt University Medical Center patient records over their transgender health care clinic.


At the time of the rule proposal, an HHS official said the rule change was crafted after the Roe v. Wade precedent was overturned and doctors "expressed fear, anger, and sadness that they or their patients may end up in jail for providing or obtaining evidence-based and medically appropriate care."


Fitch's letter said it was a "false narrative that States are seeking to treat pregnant women as criminals or punish medical personnel who provide lifesaving care."


Some doctors have argued state laws are often not clear-cut, disregard the nuances of medicine and have had damaging impacts on women's reproductive care. In Tennessee, the state's total abortion ban required physicians to knowingly commit a felony when performing an abortion to prevent the death or severe injury of a pregnant patient. It included an affirmative defense provisions, meaning doctors could justify their actions but only after facing criminal charges.


Lawmakers this spring amended the law, carving out a very narrow legal exception for abortions performed to prevent the life or severe injury of the pregnant patient. Abortions for other medical reasons, such as when a fetus has a severe defect incompatible with life, are not allowed under medical law until the pregnant patient's life is threatened, which some Tennessee doctors say is a dangerous precedent.


The Republican-backed letter countered a letter in support signed by 24 Democratic attorneys general, who urged a quick adoption of the rule as existing privacy protections "fail to contemplate circumstances in which basic health care is subject to civil liability and criminal penalties.”


Why is it so hazy? (Tennessean)


Wildfires in Canada have once again pushed smoke and haze into Nashville and Middle Tennessee triggering an air quality alert before rain moves into the area.


The air quality alert will remain in place until midnight, the National Weather Service said.


"The general public is not likely to be affected," the NWS said. "Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease such as asthma, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion."


Counties in the alert include; Cannon, Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Hickman, Macon, Maury, Montgomery, Robertson, Rutherford, Smith, Stewart, Sumner, Trousdale, Williamson and Wilson.


There is hope incoming rain will dampen the smoke in the area.


"There is a low risk of some storms becoming severe, mainly in areas around Nashville, Clarksville and Waverly this afternoon," the NWS said. "The primary threats with any storms that do become severe are straight-line winds, frequent lightning, and torrential rainfall."


Rain chances will remain throughout the week but it'll do little to reduce the heat. Heat indexes are likely to reach triple digits Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the NWS said. A heat advisory may be issued for Wednesday.


State sales tax holiday dates coming up (Maury County Source)


For 2023, the state is hosting two sales tax holidays – the traditional sales tax holiday on clothing, school supplies and computers at the end of July and a three-month sales tax holiday on groceries beginning in August.


Tennessee’s traditional sales tax holiday on clothing, school supplies and computers is the last full weekend in July. For 2023, it begins at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 28, 2023, and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, July 30, 2023.


Certain restrictions apply. Items sold online are also eligible. Items must be purchased for personal use, not for business or trade.


Tax-exempt items include:


General apparel that costs $100 or less per item, such as shirts, pants, socks, shoes, dresses, etc.

School and art supplies with a purchase price of $100 or less per item, such as binders, backpacks, crayons, paper, pens, pencils, and rulers, and art supplies such as glazes, clay, paints, drawing pads, and artist paintbrushes

Computers for personal use with a purchase price of $1,500 or less

Laptop computers, if priced at $1,500 or less, also qualify as well as tablet computers


For 2023, Tennessee’s General Assembly has approved a three-month grocery tax holiday on food & food ingredients which begins at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, August 1, 2023, and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, October 31, 2023.


Sales of prepared food, dietary supplements, candy, alcoholic beverages, and tobacco are not included in items exempt during this period.


“Food and food ingredients are defined as liquid, concentrated, solid, frozen, dried, or dehydrated substances that are sold to be ingested or chewed by humans and are consumed for their taste or nutritional value. Food and food ingredients do not include alcoholic beverages, tobacco, candy, or dietary supplements,” according to tn.gov.


Gas Prices drop a penny (MS Maury)


Gas prices across the state held relatively steady over last week, moving only a penny less expensive. The Tennessee Gas Price average is now $3.09 which is seven cents less expensive than one month ago and $1.03 less than one year ago.


“While gas prices in Tennessee held steady over the past week, Tennessee made big moves in the market and is now the second least expensive state in the country for gas prices,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Right now we’re seeing a lot of fluctuation in pricing across the country, and that’s likely to continue through this week. Even though we’re experiencing lighter demand than we were during the July 4th holiday, we’re also seeing crude oil prices creep higher. If oil prices continue to rise, it’s likely that pump prices will follow suit.”


Quick Facts


40% of Tennessee gas stations have prices below $3.00

The lowest 10% of pump prices are $2.88 for regular unleaded

The highest 10% of pump prices are $3.47 for regular unleaded

Tennessee is the 2nd least expensive market in the nation

National Gas Prices


Despite a notable cratering in gas demand in the days since the July 4th holiday, pump prices crept higher over the past week by two cents to reach $3.56. The main culprit is a higher price for oil, which moved from the upper $60s per barrel recently to the mid-$70s.


According to new data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), gas demand decreased significantly from 9.6 to 8.76 million b/d last week. Meanwhile, total domestic gasoline stocks stayed flat at 219.5 million bbl. Although lower gas demand typically pushes pump prices lower, rising oil prices have lifted them. If oil prices continue to rise, pump prices will likely follow suit.


Today’s national average of $3.56 is a penny less than a month ago and 97 cents less than a year ago.


Drivers can find current gas prices along their route using the AAA TripTik Travel planner.


Tennessee Regional Prices


Most expensive metro markets – Memphis ($3.16), Nashville ($3.14), Jackson ($3.13)

Least expensive metro markets – Chattanooga ($2.99), Morristown ($3.03), Clarksville ($3.03)


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