Controversial Williamson County project progresses

First residents move into Stephens Valley as some concerned neighbors watch from afar

The Burma-Shave-inspired signs urging "Save Stephens Valley" still line the fence posts framing several large farms on pastoral Sneed Road

But any sparing of the general area from at least some impact of the massive 980-acre Stephens Valley development is unlikely.

Indeed, work on the mixed-used community is well underway, with its first residents having settled in.

Located at the intersection of Pasquo and Sneed roads, on both sides of the Davidson-Williamson county line — and not far from the Loveless Café and the historic Natchez Trace Parkway — Stephens Valley is being co-developed by Rochford Realty and Construction Co. and Land Innovations.

The first residents of the community, sometimes compared to fellow Williamson County development Westhaven, moved into their new home at the end of September. A second family has since moved in and, as of early October, the online sales map for Stephens Valley shows 10 homes sold and 13 reserved. Representatives of Rochford Realty and Construction indicate that the number is increasing at a healthy rate.

And with the momentum Stephens Valley builds, locals observe from afar. Some with apprehension.

The project has drawn protests from area residents concerned about its impact, including increased traffic on the two-lane Sneed Road, a secondary road that connects to Hillsboro Road, a main thoroughfare into Nashville to the north and into downtown Franklin to the south.

Lined with large horse farms and several smallish subdivisions, including gated community Laurelbrooke, Sneed features about 200 homes, as well as two golf course communities, The Gardens at Old Natchez, and the approximately 500-home Temple Hills Country Club Estates, which has been continually developed by Rochford Construction starting in the late 1970s. The growth has made an impact, as a new traffic light is being installed at the opposite end of the secondary road, where Pasquo Road intersects with Highway 100 near the Loveless Cafe.

While some traffic concerns were allayed as future Stephens Valley students were zoned to the Williamson County Schools Fairview feeder pattern (Westwood Elementary, Fairview Middle, Fairview High) rather than Grassland Elementary, Middle and Franklin High, Rochford representatives have confirmed that Grassland Elementary and Middle schools are available for open zoning. Up to 25 students from any Williamson County school can apply to either of those schools, which are where other communities in the area are zoned.

In addition and within a few miles, there are a number of private schools in both Davidson and Williamson counties, including Christ Presbyterian Academy, Ensworth School, Saint Matthew Catholic School and Holy Trinity Montessori School.

No doubt, the Save Stephens Valley signs remain prominent in the area, especially on the properties of some longtime residents with larger farms. Save Stephens Valley is organized by a group of concerned residents who came together through social media and neighborhood apps like NextDoor who say they want to protect the scenic beauty of the Natchez Trace Parkway and the rich history of the Old Natchez Trace.

But their pushback does not seem to be harming sales.

Though initial marketing materials indicated that starting home prices would begin in the $400,000 price range, the website now touts homes starting in the $500,000 range. Prices flirt with a bit over $1 million.

Current available homes range from a 2,192 square-foot, three-bedroom/two-bath home for about $551,000, to a $1.1 million listing that boasts five bedrooms, 4.5 baths, and is 4,123 square feet.

Builders in the neighborhood include DeFatta Custom Homes, Legend Homes, Rochford Homes, Sipple Homes, and Celebration Homes.

Located 20 miles from downtown Nashville, and 12 miles from downtown Franklin, Stephens Valley will be built over 20 years. Approximately 550 of the 980 acres will remain untouched, as will 90 percent of the trees on the property, previously owned by Bill Stephens since 1930 and put into a family trust more than 50 years ago.

The community will abut a segment of the Natchez Trace Parkway, the 444-mile scenic drive and recreational road that roughly follows the historic “Old Natchez Trace” corridor from Tennessee, through Alabama, and on to Natchez, Mississippi. With 10,000 years of history, the original Trace was used by American Indians, European settlers, slave traders, soldiers and even future presidents. The Natchez Trace Parkway, a unit of the National Park Service since 1938, is a designated bicycle route, and along the way, offers horseback riding, hiking and camping.

John Rochford, president and founder of Rochford Realty and Construction Co., has previously said that the neighborhood will be 85 percent single-family homes, all located on the Williamson County side, and the remainder of residences will be stacked flats and townhomes in the Davidson County area, as part of the planned Town Center. Some retail space will be included.

“Construction on the Davidson County side of Stephens Valley is anticipated to begin four to six years after the first homes in Stephens Valley are sold,” said Emily Winkler, the project’s director of marketing and public relations. “Our vision plans for resident and visitors to enjoy small shops, cafes, exercise classes, an ice cream parlor and a coffee house. We will also host community events, including live music and a small farmers market. In addition, the Town Square will offer townhomes and smaller condo flats located above some of the retail space.”

Amenities slated for completion in 2018 for Stephens Valley residents include walking trails along Trace Creek and a dog park near the community’s front entrance, with additional pocket parks and trails planned for 2019. After the 150th resident lot is sold, tentative scheduling will begin for the first phase of the Community House, which will include the main event lawn, swimming and resort pools, bocce ball and volleyball courts, and playground, according to Rochford Realty and Construction. The company foresees building an estimated 50 homes each year.

A resident of the The Links at Temple Hills, Donna Clements is one of the founders of Save Stephens Valley. She first became involved when the project was introduced to include more than 1,500 homes with, at the time, a back entrance to the neighborhood that would link up with Sandcastle Road into The Links at Temple Hills. According to Clements, the original Stephens Valley plans touted approximately 891 homes slated for Williamson County, which has since been reduced to under 792 homes in the county due to road-related requirements of the Williamson County Planning Commission.

“We recognize people should be able to sell land and develop, but for our group, the issue was that the entire infrastructure around Stephens Valley was going to have to adapt, which seemed to be too much,” Clements said. “We want people to be aware that we are still concerned about the roads and the intensity of the impact. We’re hoping that Rochford will continue to consider lowering those numbers as they enter additional phases.”

Sales and Marketing Director Winkler notes that the neighborhood is still developing on schedule.

“The signs on Sneed Road have created an awareness of Stephens Valley,” she said. “They have not impacted our growth in a positive or negative way.”

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