Demographers use the word “exurban” to describe the areas where suburbs meet farmland. Compared to cities or suburbs, land in the exurbs is cheap, and with good roads a person can enjoy the benefits of a city without having to live close to it.
An Associated Press story cites a Brookings Institution report (link below) placing Knoxville and Nashville among the top ten cities in the nation with a high exurban population: Knoxville ranks Number Six and Nashville/Murfreesboro comes in at Number Nine. Tennessee ranks sixth nationally among the states in exurban population.
The report suggests that the biggest reason people move to the exurbs is for affordable housing, although the longer commute can eat up some of those savings. The AP story begins with a man who lives in the Pinewood community of Hickman County–off Exit 163 of I-40–and who drives to Nashville three times a week for his work. The drive takes 80 minutes one-way.
What are the implications of exurbanites in Tennessee? First, small towns need to begin planning before they face dozens of homes on one-acre lots. People who have commutes of two-plus hours will be ill-inclined to participate in community activities or government.
One hopes, however, that at least some newcomers will realize the value of small-town life and work to preserve it. The best example I know of this in Tennessee is Leipers Fork, southwest of Nashville, where people realize that they have a good thing going and are working to control growth and development.