Metro Nashville City Council and the Wilson County Commission recently approved a request by Davidson County resident Mason Hunter to move the county line dividing the counties so that his entire property would be located within Wilson County.
Press reports questioned the merits of that decision.
Metro Property Assessor Vivian Wilhoite claimed that Hunter requested to move the county line to avoid the recent Davidson County tax hike.
However, Hunter submitted the request to move the county line in 2019 – long before the Metro Nashville/Davidson County government considered the tax increase, as he’s already confirmed to reporters. Additionally, Hunter pays taxes to both counties for his property, and his home is noted as hard to access via the Davidson County road – one of two drives leading up to his home.
The Tennessee Code provides that county lines may be moved under certain criteria. Individuals must obtain a land survey, a resolution approved by a 2/3 vote of county commissioners of all affected counties, and passage of a General Assembly bill.
During a subcommittee hearing on the bill to shift property lines, State Representative Susan Lynn (R-Mount Juliet) explained that this boundary change wouldn’t isolate the surrounding properties. Wilhoite has claimed to both The Tennessee Star and other reporters that it would.
“If we do bring Mr. Hunter’s parcel into Wilson County, we are not creating an island, because behind Mr. Hunter’s home is Army Corps of Engineers’ land, which borders the lake and all the other properties in Davidson County about which it has been, well, falsely claimed that they would be left on an island,” explained Lynn.
The request for relief has had bipartisan support. During the last House subcommittee hearing on the corresponding bill, State Representative David Jernigan (D-Old Hickory) spoke up only to request that the legislators grant Hunter the relief. There were no arguments made on the floor against this measure.
In an interview with The Tennessee Star, Wilhoite admitted that her major concern for Hunter’s request is that it would open “Pandora’s box” for other requests to move property lines.
“If you’re going to move the tax base to another county, you better have a relevant reason,” said Wilhoite. “If you’re going to do it for one, you should do it for others. It will open Pandora’s box all over Tennessee for other assessors. That should be a concern.”
Wilhoite also claimed that a vast majority of Hunter’s property – including all of his home – is in Davidson County. She contended that the Wilson driveway only partially extends into that county, and that it rests on a separate parcel of land than his home.
Wilhoite added that the claims that emergency responders and school buses couldn’t access the driveway to his house were inaccurate. She supplied The Star with copies of the responses from Metro Department of Emergency Response and Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) officials.
However, the location and aerial views of the road belie another, unaddressed issue. According to the city council resolution, that depicted road doesn’t have “adequate ingress and egress.” That would indicate other factors, like steepness or road width, which determine whether the road is traversable.
The topic of Nashville’s 34 percent property tax increase is a contentious one for most community members and officials. However, it doesn’t appear that this was the reason for the request, based on when it was submitted. Additionally, the record of widespread bipartisan support makes it further unlikely that the request was borne out of the tax hike. Metro Nashville City Council has defended the property tax hike consistently against challenges, such as the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act.
The House State Government Committee will consider the bill to shift the county boundary on Tuesday.
The Star was unable to reach Hunter for comment.
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