The Cookeville Planning Commission has completed a comprehensive plan for the future development of the City of Cookeville and its Urban Growth Boundary. The Cookeville 2030 Plan was approved by the Planning Commission on October 25, 2010 and adopted by the City Council on December 16, 2010. The 2030 Plan replaces the Cookeville Comprehensive Future Land Use Plan, 1999-2020.
The Cookeville 2030 Plan is intended to perform at least three primary functions. First, it serves as a vision for the municipality’s future growth and development. This vision is spelled out with goals and objectives and with strategies for achieving these objectives. Next, it serves as a guide for decision making. The most common way the plan will be used in this manner is the zoning process. Rezoning decisions should be based on compliance with the plan. The plan will also be used in making decisions for capital improvements. For example it can be used as a guide for determining priorities for street improvements and for the construction of sidewalks. Thirdly, the plan is intended to meet certain legal requirements. Tennessee Code Section 13-4-201 states that “it is the function and duty of the commission to make and adopt an official general plan for the physical development of the municipality.”
The preparation of the comprehensive plan required a great deal of fieldwork and research. Every parcel of land in Cookeville and the Urban Growth Area was physically checked to determine how each was used and every street and sidewalk was inspected to determine existing condition. After all this data was collected it was placed in the city’s Geographic Information System. Once this digitization was finalized, analyses of the data collected were completed. The analyses included determination of acreage by land use classification, housing types, physical restraints to development, street mileage by classification and condition, etc. Also the digitization of this data was used to produce the illustrations that are necessary to visually present the findings and recommendations required in a comprehensive plan.
The comprehensive planning process can be broken down into three steps. First, pertinent data on what makes a community work, such as historical data, environmental and natural factors, population and employment, and existing land use and transportation facilities, must be collected. Second, this data must be examined to identify trends and determine affects on future growth and development. Lastly, the results of these analyses are used to formulate a long-term development program for the municipality.
Public participation and input was a vital part in the development of the 2030 Plan. In preparing the plan the Planning Commission and staff meet with numerous agencies, groups and individuals to gather data and information. A random survey of 400 residents of Cookeville was completed to gather opinions on important issues affecting the future growth and development of the city. The findings from the survey were incorporated into the Development Plan element of the 2030 Plan. In addition to the random survey, the Planning Commission held several public hearings to solicit citizen opinions regarding the plan.
The Cookeville 2030 Plan is composed of 7 primary elements.
Chapter 2 – Background for Planning
The purpose of the Background for Planning element is to provide information on how the community has historically developed and on how it currently functions. Some of the primary historic influences on growth and development in Cookeville include the construction of the railroad, Highway 70N, Interstate 40, Highway 111, and the development of Tennessee Tech and the Cookeville Regional Medical Center. Many of these past events will continue to affect development into the future. The information presented in this element gives those unfamiliar with the municipality a better perspective on why the municipality has developed the way it has and with information on the local government structure and its financial stability.
Chapter 3 – Environment and Natural Factors
The environment and natural factors significantly affect the future development of a community. Ignoring these factors can prove to be extremely costly to specific property owners as well as the entire community. In this element of the Plan the environment and the natural factors affecting development in the Cookeville Urban Growth Boundary are identified and their impacts are analyzed. These include climate, air quality, water resources, stormwater, trees and vegetation, topography, sinkholes, drainage, flooding, soils, wetlands and geology.
Not all land is suitable for development and some land should be protected from development. Some of the biggest natural constraints to development in Cookeville are slopes exceeding 20 percent, sinkhole retention areas, floodplain areas and wetlands. A large portion of the drainage system in the Cookeville area is accomplished by sinkholes so it is very important that these areas be protected.
The environment and natural resources in the Cookeville area are major components of the quality of life enjoyed by residents. The results of the 2010 Citizen Survey indicate that protection of the natural environment is an important issue to many Cookeville residents. With lands available for development without significant natural constraints limited, more pressure for development in environmentally sensitive areas will occur. The Cookeville 2030 Plan identifies the need for a comprehensive system-wide approach for the management and protection of natural resources for the future development of the City of Cookeville and its Urban Growth Boundary. This approach should include the encouragement of the use of low impact development principals, the utilization, protection and enhancement of green infrastructure, and the promotion of green building programs.
Chapter 4 – Socio-Economic Factors Affecting Development
Population and employment characteristics greatly affect the future development of a community. Trends must be identified and projections must be made to estimate future land use and transportation needs. The population demographics examined in this element include historical growth, migration, age distribution, and household size. An understanding of these demographics is important. For example the analysis of age distribution shows that the city’s population is getting older. This would indicate additional facilities for seniors may be needed in the future.
The employment characteristics studied include employment by major industrial sectors, historical employment, major employers, unemployment rates, place of work, income levels and poverty rates.
The most important demographics for projecting future land use needs are population projections. Population projections prepared by the University of Tennessee Center for Business and Economic Research were utilized in the 2030 Plan. By the year 2020 the City of Cookeville’s population is projected to be 35,675 and by 2030 it is projected to reach approximately 40,000.
Chapter 5 – Existing Land Use Analysis
A survey and study of existing land use patterns and characteristics must be completed to prepare a plan for future land use. During the fall of 2008 field surveys of the city and the unincorporated urban growth boundary were completed. The utilization of each parcel of land was determined. The land use was divided into broad categories of developed and vacant land. Of the approximately 20,850 acres within the city at the time of the inventory an estimated 57 percent was classified as developed. This is a significant change from 1999 when 68 percent of the city land area was classified as developed and this can be attributed to the annexation of approximately 6,800 acres since 1999. In the unincorporated urban growth boundary only 37 percent of the land is developed.
The developed land was assigned to more specific land use categories which included residential, commercial/private services, industrial, public/religious/cultural and recreational, utilities, and transportation. Analyses were first completed to determine acreage by general land use category. Next specific analyses by individual land use category were prepared and compared to the findings from 1999. The land use categories increasing by the largest percentage from 1999 to 2008 were multi-family residential and commercial, both increasing by approximately 34 percent.
13,003 housing units were identified in the land use inventory, which is an increase of approximately 3,000 units since 1999. Of the 13,000 housing units identified in the inventory 56 % were traditional single family homes, 37% were multi-family housing units, 4% were mobile homes and 3% were public housing units. Construction history was also examined. One significant finding in this analysis was that multi-family construction has out paced single-family construction over the past 25 years. From 2000 to 2008 multi-family units exceeded the construction of single family units by 203 units.
To determine where and how much land is available for future development vacant land was examined. Of the 9,024 acres in city classified as vacant, 30% is encumbered with physical constraint limiting development potential. Of the remaining approximately 6,400 acres, an estimated 75% does not have access to public sewer. This leaves about 1,600 acres of vacant land in the city with access to sewer and having no significant constraints to development.
The impact of zoning on land use was also examined. Approximately 63 % of the land area in the city is zoned for single family residential use, with 52% of the residentially zoned properties being zoned as RS-20.
In the 1999 Plan the city was divided into 9 Planning Neighborhoods for the purpose of tracking and examining land use trends. Building permit data indicates that Neighborhoods 4, 5 and 6 experienced the greatest amount of development from 1999 through 2007. The neighborhoods with the most residential growth from 1999 to 2008 were 1, 4, 3, and 6, in that order. Neighborhoods 3 and 1 had the most multi-family residential development.
Chapter 6 – Transportation Analysis and Plan
The transportation system in the Cookeville Planning Area is examined in the Future Land Use Plan and plans for future improvements are presented. The transportation system forms the framework upon which a community is built, and adequate traffic circulation is a prerequisite to economic activity and general community development. The transportation system was analyzed in terms of recent events affecting the system, classification of thoroughfares, traffic circulation patterns, traffic volumes, traffic capacity and level of service, frequency of accidents, traffic impediments, traffic generators, intersection deficiencies, existing street conditions, parking, transit, and pedestrian/non-vehicular circulation.
Streets are classified based on their intended use which can range from providing access to residential and other land uses to providing uninterrupted movement of high-speed traffic. Classification of thoroughfares is necessary for several reasons including to establish the widths of right-of-way that need to be dedicated or acquired for widening existing streets and to determine appropriate building setbacks.
Significant findings in the various analyses include:
- Traffic circulation is hindered by insufficient availability of continuous routes through the city
- Traffic volume data indicates the increasing importance of Willow Avenue and Highway 111 as north-south routes in the city and of 10th Street and Interstate Drive/Neal Street as east-west routes
- Level of service analysis indicate concerns for segments of North Washington Avenue, East Spring Street, North Willow Avenue, and East 10th Street
- Accident data indicates that the intersection of Jackson Street and Willow Avenue is by far the most dangerous in the city
- 16 intersections were identified as having deficiencies
- The most significant impediments to traffic flow identified were the lack of available routes, discontinuous routes, and inadequate lanes on existing routes. Another major impediment especially on Jefferson and Willow Avenues is the excessive number of ingress and egress points to serve the land uses on these streets.
- Existing street conditions were determined so that priorities for improvements could be developed. The inventory indicates that approximately 45% of the local streets were less than good condition. In 1999, 39% of the streets were found to be in less than good condition. This is an indication that not enough funding is being applied to street repairs and resurfacing.
- The city has approximately 63.8 miles of sidewalks compared to approximately 44.4 miles in 1999. This significant increase can be attributed to a concentrated effort by the city to build sidewalks and by changes to the zoning code and subdivision regulations requiring the installation of sidewalks.
From these analyses a Future Transportation Plan was developed. A major element of the Transportation Plan is a new Major Street Plan replacing the plan adopted in 1999. The 2030 Major Street Plan identifies 34 street improvement projects which range from widening or realigning existing local streets to the construction of a fifth interchange on Interstate 40. The Major Street Plan is a legal document which has been recorded with the Putnam County Register of Deeds. Developers are required to account for the Major Street Plan in the process of developing their property.
Two other important components of the Future Transportation Plan are the Street Improvements Plan and the Pedestrian Circulation Plan. The Street Improvements Plan sets priorities for improvements to local streets. In most cases the improvements consist of street resurfacing. The Pedestrian Circulation Plan identifies where new sidewalks, bikeways and greenways should be constructed.
Chapter 7 – The Development Plan
The Development Plan, which is the actual plan for the future development of the city and its urban growth area, was derived from the previous analyses. The Development Plan consists of three primary components. The first component is the recognition or identification of major assumptions, factors, issues and trends framing the formulation of the development plan. The second component is the establishment of development goals and objectives and the identification of policies to achieve these goals and objectives. For example, under the objective of “protection and enhancement of the natural environment” one of the policies is that “the City shall promote and support the use of green infrastructure for all new development”.
These goals and objectives were based upon input gathered from public work sessions, the Citizen Survey, Public Hearings, and from the City Council, City Manager, and the various Department Heads. The policies to achieve these goals and objectives were developed by the Planning Staff and the Planning Commission. These policies will be used by the Planning Commission as guidelines when reviewing development proposals.
The second component of the Development Plan is the Future Land Use Concept Map. The Concept Map visually presents the city’s vision for future growth and development. The actual determination of how land in the city and its growth area should be developed was based on the all mentioned analyses, including existing land use patterns, natural factors, utility locations and capabilities, and the existing and planned transportation systems. The Concept Map also reflects the goals and objectives of the city. For example one of the primary objectives of the city is to protect single family residential areas. To achieve this objective an attempt was made on the Concept Map to ensure that commercial and industrial areas do not encroach into established residential areas.
Chapter 8 – Plan Implementation
A plan is of little use unless it is implemented. Several methods are identified by which the Plan can be implemented. These methods include: Planning Commission project review, zoning, subdivision regulations, codes enforcement, utility extension policies, public improvements program, infill development, annexation, citizen participation, and local leadership.