Why Williamson County Is Putting On An Election For Two Residents | Nashville Public Radio

Why Williamson County Is Putting On An Election For Two Residents

Dec 14, 2016

For nearly two years, a battle has raged over a massive development in Williamson County. The plan, called Two Farms, aims to turn 2,000 acres of rural farmland into 1,500 homes and a golf course designed by sporting legend Tiger Woods.

On Thursday, Election Day, the fate of the controversial development will go to a vote — of just two people.

The public notices have been printed and posted. The voting location will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Per election rules, five poll officials will be there, ready to assist.

But Gary and Portia Baker, the couple who own the land being voted on, are the only eligible voters. And even they won’t be there on election day. They cast their ballots last week.

Yes, there was early voting too.

“We’re going to have 100 percent turnout," Gary Baker jokes. "That’s one for the record books."

Chad Gray, Williamson County’s elections administrator, says he’s never overseen one quite like this.

"I’ve worked in this office since 2000, and this is one of the more bizarre situations we’ve faced in holding an election," Gray says.

The explanation of how things got to this point is a bit wonky. About a year ago, the town of Thompson's Station — a town that, despite its growth, still doesn’t have its own fire or police department — passed a new ordinance allowing for denser, more compact development.

Within weeks, a developer came to them with the idea for Two Farms, which they wanted to place on land that the Bakers were selling.

The problem: It was outside the development zone. So Thompson's Station officials used some fancy footwork to annex the property from the county. But then, Williamson County officials told them that wasn't allowed.

Joe Cosentini, the city administrator for Thompson’s Station, says they weren’t looking to cut corners.

“We thought we were doing it right. Obviously there were individuals out there that wanted to make sure we dotted every I and crossed every T, so we agreed to go through the referendum process," Cosentini says.

So, after failing once, the town is trying again. This time, they’re using a statute that allows the town to hold a referendum election for only those who own and reside on the land being annexed — in other words, the Bakers, who support the change.

Despite major opposition by neighbors, the referendum’s approval is a foregone conclusion.

Baker says the whole thing feels a bit silly, having two weeks of early voting and holding a day-long election with no voters. He’ll respect the democratic process, he says. He just hopes poll workers have some good books to read this Thursday.

The estimated cost of the election for two, according to Gray, is nearly $4,000.