COMMUNITY OF HICKORY WITHE
Hickory Withe, Tennessee
Efforts to incorporate Hickory Withe led to revisions of Tennessee laws regarding incorporation and annexation. In the mid-1990s supporters of the idea of incorporating Hickory Withe came to Lieutenant Governor of Tennessee John S. Wilder, who is from nearby Braden and has represented the area in the Tennessee State Senate since 1966, with the idea of sponsoring a bill which would allow Hickory Withe to incorporate, something which could not be accomplished under the then-existing law. Wilder learned that he could not introduce an act allowing only for the incorporation of Hickory Withe as this would be rejected by the courts as unconstitutional, so it was necessary for any act to help Hickory Withe to incorporate to be worded in a broad enough fashion to allow any similar area in Tennessee which also desired to incorporate to do so as well. The eventual bill which passed was drawn in such a way as to allow almost any previously-unincorporated area to incorporate, and several attempted to do so, including, famously, an apartment building near Elizabethton, Tennessee. The resulting legislation became known, somewhat derisively, as the “Tiny Towns Bill”. Most of the towns which were set up, or were attempted to be set up under the act, seemed primarily to be efforts to prevent areas from being annexed by larger jurisdictions which charged property tax. The Tennessee Supreme Court struck down the new legislation on November 19, 1997, less than a year after it entered the books. Corrective legislation enacted since has required any new town being set up to have a property tax rate set as a condition of its incorporation (and that rate cannot be “zero”). Towns set up under the “Tiny Town” law, like Hickory Withe, were not automatically dissolved with the act’s repeal, although some have subsequently taken this step.
Hickory Withe, with a fairly large area relative to its population and an affluent tax base which can provide considerable revenue to the town at a still-low rate, seems unlikely to do so. In the Memphis metropolitan area, Hickory Withe is only behind in affluence of certain areas of the city of Memphis, as well as the Shelby County suburban areas of Germantown and Collierville.