Rutherford County-A Regional Workforce Leader

Stones River National Battlefield, Murfreesboro, Rutherford County

Once home to a quiet college town, Rutherford County today, boasts more than 260,000 residents with a population growth of over 40% in the last decade, making Rutherford the fastest growing county in Tennessee. In addition to a growing population, the county seat, Murfreesboro is home to over 25,000 students at Middle Tennessee State University, which has the largest undergraduate student population in the state. Rutherford County has additional thriving cities along the I-24 corridor. La Vergne, which borders the Davidson County line, has seen tremendous growth as it offers commuter friendly living to Nashville and Murfreesboro. Smyrna, home of the Nissan plant, has also seen steady growth over the past three decades as it has shifted from a predominantly rural community to a thriving suburb. Eagleville, the smallest incorporated municipality in Rutherford County, provides small town charm and rural living for its residents.

In 2008, CRT conducted Quality Growth Toolbox training with Rutherford’s Vision for the Future Steering Committee, which empathizes comprehensive planning as a first step. Since then, Rutherford County has adopted a comprehensive land use plan using CRT’s GIS Greenprint: Tools for Quality Growth in helping to identify priority open spaces and development patterns.

Rutherford County was created from parts of Davidson, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson Counties in 1803. The original county seat was at the old village of Jefferson. Rutherford County was named in honor of Revolutionary War General Griffith Rutherford.

Rutherford County was once hunting grounds for the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Shawnee nations. The Creek War Trace and Nickajack Trail once ran through present day Murfreesboro near Black Fox Springs.

The Stones River, a major tributary of the Cumberland River named for explorer Uriah Stone around 1767, provided a transportation route and water source for settlers and power for mills built throughout the county. Jefferson, a river town now covered by the waters of Percy Priest Lake, was the first county seat. Centrally located Murfreesboro gained county seat status in 1811. From 1818 to 1826 Murfreesboro was the capital of Tennessee. Smyrna, LaVergne, and Eagleville are incorporated towns within the county.

A moderate climate supporting a long growing season, proximity to Nashville, access to market by water, road, and, by the 1850s, the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, combined to promote an agrarian base of considerable diversity and wealth. A few holdings exceeded 1,000 acres. Oaklands, established by the Murfree and Maney families in the 1820s, had 1,500 acres and, as illustrated by the 1850s Italianate house museum, was a very prosperous estate. The county now has 200,000 acres of farm land and twenty-two certified Century Farms (those that have been in the same family for at least one hundred years). Livestock and grains continue to be the county’s chief agricultural products.

Rutherford County is an outlying part of metropolitan Nashville. Since 1970 its population has been increasing rapidly as Nashville becomes a true metropolis. The rate of growth accelerated in the 1990s and continued at a brisk pace into the first decade of the 21st century. From 2005-2006 the county population grew by over 10,000 people.

In 2007, SafeHarbor Holding LLC announced a proposal to build a 100-acre (0.40 km2) biblically-themed park in the Blackman Community, with the proposed name “Bible Park USA”. There has been significant resistance to such a development from the local residents. In May 2008 the Rutherford County Board of Commissioners denied the request to rezone a 282-acre tract for the bible park.

Rutherford County: 2008 Agricultural Economic Profile

Employment in Agriculture and Forestry made up 4.0% of total jobs created in Rutherford County in 2008 with 5,270 total jobs in these sectors. Secondary agriculture was the largest job creator with 2,147 jobs or 52.4% of total agriculture jobs created. Overall, the forestry industry created 1,178 jobs or 22.3% of total agriculture and forestry jobs created in 2008.


Progress On CRT Principles for Quality Growth:

Comprehensive community plans

Once a quiet county of extensive agriculture and light industry, Rutherford County today boasts more than 250,000 residents and an astonishing population growth rate of 36% over the last decade, making it the fastest growing county in Tennessee. Given such immense expansion, Rutherford is currently drafting a comprehensive plan, which especially emphasizes historic town center revitalization, rural space conservation, and cost control for community services. With the aid of CRT, Rutherford’s Vision for the Future Steering Committee participated in Quality Growth Toolbox training in October 2008. Rutherford citizens recently contributed their input through public meetings this past fall and a land use draft vision of the future was completed in June of 2010. Planners are currently working to distill those desires into the final document, tentatively set for release in 2011.In addition the Murfreesboro Planning Department did complete a Comprehensive Community Plan for a historic district in the downtown area. The purpose of this plan was to address long standing infrastructure issues and to guide future development patterns.

Updated zoning, subdivision and building codes to implement plans

Rutherford County is the first quality growth pilot project to combine the phases of Comprehensive Plan Development and Zoning Updating into one project and consulting contract, a pioneering step that sets an excellent example for its neighbors. Once the final plan is released, many of the essential code revisions will already be in place, expediting the implementation process and laying vital groundwork for further smart growth policy.

Design for protection and enhancement of community character

In public meetings, citizens repeatedly emphasized their passion for maintaining the integrity of Rutherford’s rural landscape. By revising zoning and incentives to prevent islands of development in rural areas, the comprehensive plan can preserve the “entryway effect” into the unspoiled landscape that so enchants visitors and residents. The residents of Rutherford also place a premium on respecting land rights, so plan crafters are working closely with the landowners to ensure that their land rights and individual concerns are honored in the drafting process.

Redevelopment of cities, towns, rural communities

Though the current Vision for the Future document highlights few concrete procedures, it offers broad goals for redevelopment that the final document can distill into actionable steps. Most notably, it calls for overlay districts in rural communities that direct dollars to refurbish existing developments. By funneling the immense population growth into redevelopment rather than new subdivisions, the county can create higher densities rather than sprawl.


Given Rutherford’s exponential growth over recent decades, housing supply must continually strive to meet demand. Through the new comprehensive plan, Rutherford will implement regulations designed to ensure that most of that new housing stock follows smart growth principles. In addition to diversifying its housing stock to accommodate multiple incomes and uses, Rutherford is also dedicating itself to site schools closer to existing and planned housing. Those regulations will incentivize constructing new community features (baseball parks, theaters, etc) closer to school sites.


As plan drafting proceeds, county planners are updating their greenprint to mark key areas to be preserved for environmental purposes. Specifically, the plan designates zoning overlay districts that will protect sensitive areas and ensure aesthetic consistency with the surrounding landscape. In public meetings, citizens also requested a more integrated system of greenways throughout the county.

In order to both maintain the economic and environmental value of Rutherford’s many agricultural lands, the county plan creates two new programs: First, the plan will endow a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) scheme, a privately-driven development rights market that designates sending and receiving areas for selling the right to develop rural or environmentally sensitive land so that development can instead improve density in already developed areas. Such a program would allow Rutherford’s citizens to preserve rural character without sacrificing economic value. Second, the plan will also create “right to farm” protections in development regulations, which insulate farmers from public and private nuisance actions and other municipal regulations that often clash with the necessities of farming. Through these two policy proposals, Rutherford can better conserve its valuable agricultural and environmental resources.

Land use and transportation

County stakeholders plan to coordinate with the Chamber of Commerce to ensure land use is both attractive to businesses and highly sensitive to the surrounding environment. Additionally, community leaders hope to identify key transportation corridors and funnel development along these “Gateway Districts,” directing construction away from rural areas and into existing economic hotspots. Rutherford’s plan also calls for a broader system of bus routes that will reach out to currently isolated parts of the county. Transit working with the Nashville MPO to evaluate the possibility of a commuter rail between Murfreesboro and Nashville.

Use of Existing Infrastructure

Given the county’s skyrocketing growth rate, many municipalities are struggling to manage infrastructure costs. By incentivizing redevelopment within established sewer, water, and electric systems policymakers hope to curb costs and simplify maintenance functions.

Thinking and acting regionally

By combining plan drafting and code revision into one contracted step, Rutherford has already pushed the bar higher for Middle Tennessee’s future planning initiatives. As Murfreesboro continues to grow, along with its neighboring cities, the need for regional cooperation can only grow. The county sets a strong precedent for regional thinking by collaborating with the Nashville MPO on transit alternatives, and many more such partnerships will be beneficial once Rutherford’s comprehensive plan debuts.


The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) is hard at work to provide new and better transit options that ensure everyone can get where they need to in a cost-effective and timely manner. To determine how best to expand regional transit service, the RTA is updating their Strategic Transit Plan, known as nMotion 2015. Your input and opinions are desperately needed to help develop the best regional mass transit system possible.

Join Cumberland Region Tomorrow, the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee, and the Regional Transportation Authority to discuss the specific transit and transportation needs of your county. This event will bring together key government, business, and community leaders from your county for an in-depth look at the demand for new solutions in regional transportation and transit in relation to your county’s vision and goals.

Schedule of county meetings

Wilson County

Thursday, October 22nd, 4:30-6:30 pm

Capitol Theatre | 110 W Main Street | Lebanon, TN 37087

Rutherford County

Thursday, November 5th, 4:30-6:30 pm

Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce Atrium | 3050 Medical Center Pkwy, Murfreesboro, TN 37129

Robertson County

Tuesday, November 10th, 5:00-7:00 pm

Stokes Brown Public Library | 405 White Street, Springfield, TN 37172

Williamson County

Thursday, November 12th, 7:30-9:30 am

Franklin City Hall | 109 Third Avenue South | Franklin, TN 37064

Sumner County

Thursday, November 12th, 4:30-6:30 pm

Volunteer State Community College, Mary Cole Nichol Dining Room | 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN 37066

Cheatham County

Thursday, November 19th, 6:00-8:00 pm

Cheatham County Courthouse, General Sessions Court | 100 Public Square, Ashland City, TN 37015

Montgomery County

Wednesday, December 2nd, 7:30-9:30 am

Freedom Point at Liberty Park | 1188 Cumberland Drive, Clarksville, TN 37040

Dickson County

Thursday, December 3rd, 5:00-7:00 pm

Dickson City Hall, City Council Chambers | 600 East Walnut Street | Dickson, TN 37055

Maury County

Friday, December 4th, 7:30-9:30 am

Location TBD

For event registration and more information, please visit!



Public Investment Leads to Private Investment


Downtown reinvestment from 2006 to 2010 in the region’s four Main Street communities of Columbia, Gallatin, Franklin and Murfreesboro totaled $341.1 Million:

Total building rehabilitation projects: 978
Number of public improvement projects: 40
Number of new construction projects: 80
Number of housing units created: 78
Total Value of all private investment: $175.6 million
Total Value of all public investment: $165.5 million

Source: Tennessee Main Street Program, Reinvestment Statistics–Middle Tennessee, 2010.



Tennessean and MTSU Partner to Address Regional Issues

Brainstorm Nashville

Regional collaboration continues to be a growing force in the Cumberland Region of Middle Tennessee, since the formation of CRT in 2000, other organizations such as Leadership Middle Tennessee, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce Partnership 2020, the Middle Tennessee Mayors Caucus, and the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee have all formed under the umbrella of regional collaboration to solve some our region’s most challenging issues.

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A Profile of the Tennessee Main Street Program in Murfreesboro

Rutherford Mainstreet Program

Daily News Journal February 26, 2012

The Daily News Journal profiled Kathleen Herzog, Director of the Murfreesboro Main Street Program. Herzog has served in that role since 1999 and has seen several positive changes in the historic town square of Murfreesboro. Murfreesboro Main Street program is part of a state-wide Tennessee Main Street program organized by the state of Tennessee’s Economic and Community Development department and is one of three communities in the Cumberland Region of Middle Tennessee to earn the distinction of a Tennessee Main Street.

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