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Mt. Juliet ranks among nation's top 'boom towns'

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One of Tennessee's fastest growing cities, Mt. Juliet, now has one of the hottest zip codes around.

Realtor Magazine this week ranked the "city between the lakes" one of America's top 30 Boom Towns. Mt. Juliet ranked 16th, a distinction based on such things as new home construction, job creation, and household growth, according to new analysis by Realtor.com.

"The strength of the residential real estate market is closely correlated to growth in jobs and households," said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Realtor.com. "The good news for these markets is that these growth factors have already started to translate into new construction. At the same time, it may be a year or so before some markets on our list start to see an increase in inventory. If anything, this is a road map for where builders should be thinking about where to break ground next."

The nation's No. 1 boom town is Gilbert, Ariz, with Dallas at No.3 and Boston at No. 30.

City Commissioner Brian Abston's district is "the boom" in South Mt. Juliet.

"This is a very enlightening statistic," he said. "We certainly know what a hot market it is here, but to see it sized up as 16th in the country just shows you how hot. My district has been a major part of that growth and still is, but you now see it moving north with new business and neighborhood proposals. There are certainly people on both sides of the fence related to all the growth, but the fact is you can't really stop it, you can just try to manage it the best you can. We continue to enact more strict policies and building codes, as well as making sure developers help with infrastructure. This doesn't seem to slow any of them down."

"Wow!" is what Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce President Mark Hinesley said in an in-depth post on a popular "Hip Mt. Juliet" social media site.

"My personal opinion is that we are incredibly blessed that so many people are recognizing what a wonderful place Mt. Juliet has become and they want to join us!" he said. "Think about it... many, if not most, of the folks who move here have a choice and they chose Mt. Juliet. Is there really a higher compliment that a community can be paid than when a family from another part of the country packs up everything they have, leaves family, friends and maybe even careers behind to come and be with us?

"I hope that those of us already here will continue to welcome our new friends and neighbors with open arms, just as those who welcomed us when we decided to call Mt. Juliet home."

Hinesley noted he realized some want growth to slow, or even stop.

"Growth certainly brings challenges, but so does no growth," Hinesley said. "Together we can work through the pro-growth challenges."

City Commissioner Ray Justice presides over North Mt. Juliet. He said the distinction can be bitter sweet.

"I wish we could preserve Mt. Juliet to the degree to keep the hometown feel," he said. "Reality is we don't live in a cocoon. We've done something right for people to come here."

He said growth is a product of success. He mentioned good schools, the low tax rate, great youth sports programs and the obvious boost of being so close to Nashville.

"Infrastructure is key," he said. "We need to be planning now and not waiting for the masses to arrive. I had no idea growing up here what Mt. Juliet would become, but I knew there was something special here."

Justice said it's the "quality of life." And, he's spent the last 12 years trying to maintain North Mt. Juliet as a safe haven.

"I can't stop the growth," he said. "I can only try to manage it."

People's love affair with this city - that has a population a bit over 28,000 - no doubt is connected to the low tax rate Justice mentioned. A 20-cent property tax was implemented just four years ago. According to city officials, the average Mt. Juliet homeowner pays about $300 annually in city property taxes.

City leaders also point out Mt. Juliet's proximity to Interstate 40, Nashville International Airport, state-recognized great school system and managed growth are key factors which lure people to the city.

Several new subdivisions are in the works across the city, such as Cowden Subdivision in South Mt. Juliet, with a planned 344 homes and 230 town homes. Baird Farms is also planned in that area.

The north end of town has seen a revival with the recent announcement the county's next high school will be constructed there. The latest subdivision in initial approval process is planned for the Windtree Golf Course property on Nonaville Road, that when built out, will have 410 lots.

Realtor Magazine's Smoke said some of the hottest markets are seeing household growth that's one to seven times above the average national growth, and new-home starts that are one to six times the average growth of the top 100 areas.

"What's more, Realtor.com researchers project that the 30 hottest zip codes are projected to see the most growth in households - between 9 and 19 percent - over the next five years," he said.

At Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty's recent State of the City address, he touted Mt. Juliet's assets. He noted there were 296 residential housing permits issued in 2015. He said the number has gone down, but said Del Webb Lake Providence is built out, and that neighborhood is 1,100 homes and "they sold faster, far faster than anyone anticipated."

"Homes sell quickly, property values are increasing, and rents are climbing," he said. "Demand for Mt. Juliet and Wilson County is high. We have the best schools in the state, are situated between two beautiful lakes and are 10 miles to an international airport....life is good."

Writer Laurie Everett can be reached at laurieeverett1@gmail.com.

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