Lawsuit: Wilson County Zoning Changes Violate State Guidelines, Lower Property Values

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The Tennessee Conservative Staff –

A lawsuit has been brought to challenge new Wilson County zoning regulations. The suit alleges that the regulations were not legally approved and that they will prove detrimental to property owners in the county.

Wilson County commissioners voted to approve a number of new zoning regulations in May. Those changes included an increase in the minimum amount of land that the county will approve for subdivision in certain categories.

The new regulations do not affect land within the Lebanon, Mt. Juliet, and Watertown city limits.


According to planning director Tom Brashear, his opinion is that the changes were made in response to public opinion related to the extensive growth that has occurred in Wilson County and the Middle Tennessee area in general.

Frank Bryant, one of the four plaintiffs bringing the suit, is a developer and Wilson County resident. He believes the commissioners were catering to the big companies.

“They did this thing behind people’s backs,” Bryant says. “They’ve brought in all these companies and now they want to change the rules. A lot of people would never know that this would affect their farm.”

Previous regulations allowed property owners to subdivide a parcel of land with a minimum 40,000 square feet for “A1 agricultural zoning for landowners without sewer access.” The new regulations raise that minimum to 80,000 square feet.

Jay White, another plaintiff who owns a number of larger tracts of land, says, “It does affect your bottom line. It affects your net worth. If you never sell, it will affect your heirs that do sell.”

White says that if this had been made public before being approved “there would have been a lot more opposition against this.”

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Other changes that the lawsuit mentions as concerning include:

• An increase in minimum square footage for suburban residential lots – from 10,000 to 20,000 square feet for single-family homes with access to public sewer and from 15,000 to 30,000 for duplexes.

• A change in the mandate for R1 residential zoning that would remove the incentive for people to install public sewer access instead of a septic system.

State guidelines allow county commissioners to make changes to zoning regulations, however the lawsuit claims that those guidelines were not followed entirely.

“The change to the zoning regulations in May directly impacts every piece of real property subject to Wilson County’s zoning regulations,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney Elliott Benson. “A landowner may not have his property for sale today to realize it yet, but property value has been taken by this regulation.”

Benson says that the new regulations lower the value of property in Wilson County and also prohibit landowners from being able to parcel a single acre of land for a family member or other person to build on.


The lawsuit says that the changes are a violation of guidelines because they did not provide required public notice of the meeting and did not fully publish information of the effect of the changes on property owners until after the public hearing time.

According to Benson, “Tennessee law requires a complete summary of a proposed change to a zoning regulation be published; no complete summary was provided prior to the passage of this regulation.”

The lawsuit is asking to void the legislation that changed the zoning regulations. No comment was given by Wilson County Attorney Mike Jennings or Mayor Randall Hutto.

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