FERRIER FILES: Neighbors, officials fight growth to preserve small town TN character
BELL BUCKLE, Tenn. —
Bell Buckle, Tennessee, looks like a movie set.
Beautiful small town homes, perfectly manicured, and a downtown shopping district that just oozes old-timey charm.
Hard to imagine but on festival weekend, Bell Buckle outdraws the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.
“I think we are all looking for a slower simpler time,” Billy Phillips said. "Somewhere where your heart rate goes down."
Phillips runs the 1889 general store and the 1881 ice cream parlor.
“There is nothing here you need," Phillips said "There is only things you want. You can go to a box store and get the same things, but not here. Bell Buckle is the place you come to get away from all those things."
To say those other things are not welcome here is an understatement. Many times small communities argue with their own local government over growth, but not here.
Mayor Jenny Hunt ferociously protects Bell Buckle's historic character and lead the charge to keep out a Dollar market that wanted to build near town limits.
“W e have a little market for 405 people; that’s just fine and it fits in here," Hunt said. "We like to say we are 100 years behind the times. A dollar market is not going to be 100 years behind the times."
Those dollar markets and new subdivisions all die in town planning or zoning meetings.
This town may have only 405 people, but all of them show up when Bell Buckle is threatened.
"I truly believe in a town our size if you let in one small box store, it's Pandora's box," Phillips said. "What you see here now would not be here in five or 10 years. I don't like to say we are anti-growth. I like to say we are progressively backwards."
"It is town where you sit and watch the train go by. It is a town with just one police officer, who can barely keep his job.
Not a modern city in any way except in the way they fight. They use Public Chapter 1101 for protecting scenic byways.
If you are in the country, you only get a water tap if you have five acres. That controls density and stops subdivisions.
“There is something that Bell Buckle has that makes people happy, and we want to keep that," Mayor Hunt said. "It's worth protecting, and its definitely worth fighting for."