Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

Walter L. Shouse

Committee Members

James Spencer, Kenneth Kenney


Urban planners continue to explore various ways of influencing the type, rate, location, quality and timing of urban development. The need for such influence is evidenced by the compounding of urban environmentmental and energy concerns with local government fiscal difficulties. This study examines two of the tools frequently identified as being useful in efforts to effectively manage urban development: consolidated urban government and the controlled extension of certan urban services, especially water service, sewage service, fire protection and police protection.

These two tools are explored through a case study of the urban and general services district concept as it has evolved in Metropolitan Nashville-Davidson County, Tennessee. The decision, with the establishment of consolidated government in 1963, to divide Metropolitan Nashville-Davidson County into two service districts provides a setting for the examination of past, present and potential impact of these service arrangements upon Nashville's urban development. The following four research questions provide the focus of the study:

  1. Was the creation of the service districts based upon a planning concern for the coordination of service provision with development objectives?
  2. Has the existence of these districts permitted their use as vehicles for coordinatied service delivery consistent with development objectives?
  3. Given the history of these districts, do they appear to have potential in assisting Metro Nashville in meeting its future development objectives?
  4. Does the Nashville experience with consolidated government and the service district concept provide planners with evidence of the validity of such arrangements for the implementation of development objectives in metropolitan areas?

Organized around these central questions, the study employs interviews with past and present planning officials, reviews of planning documents, and searches of literature on Metro Nashville to find its answers.

The principal findings of the study are:

  1. A continuing group of professional planners and Nashville citizens were instrumental in the design and implementation of consolidated government in Nashville and Davidson County.
  2. The creation of the Urban Services District and General Services District concept was a response to service delivery, poltical, fiscal and legal problems in Nashville; developmental concerns were secondary.
  3. Since 1963, the continuing need to provide urban services to already-urbanized areas has precluded active consideration of using service policies to guide development; this fact has been reinforced by the general Metro political environment which supports the view that public planning for development should be limited to the maintainance of "minimum standards" of public health, safety and welfare.
  4. The potential for use of Urban Services District expansion policies as developmental tools has been moderated by the erosion of the distinction between the Urban Services District and the General Services District.
  5. Although Metro is currently reviewing three "general plan" alternatives, there is little evidence to suggest that a political climate is emerging which will support the use of service policies to influence urban development beyond the "minimum standard" level.
  6. The expansion of the Nashville metropolitan area beyond the boundaries of Davidson County, the dominance of state and federal decision-makers in transportation decision-making, and the lack of consistent coordination between Metro agencies and departments seriously inhibits any effort to use Urban Services District extension to influence urban development.

The conclusions of the study are based upon these findings and are phrased as messages to planners who are interested in the potential impact consolidated government and the management or urban services might have upon urban development. The messages suggest caution in listing the virtures of consolitated government, particularly where such government is not truly metropolitan. It is further suggested that the use of urban service policies to influence development is dependent upon both the political capacity and the political will to effectively achieve development goals. Planner are encouraged to seek the development of each of these.

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