Town of Franklin Council members gathered for their first autumn meeting, which included various rezoning discussions. After recognitions of police department and other public safety employees, public hearings were held to address one property rezoning from residential to mixed use as well as an additional property tagged for condemnation within the town limits. An update on social districting efforts was also provided.
Macon County chaplaincy members Bonnie Peggs, Danny Antoine and Davis Hooper recognized public safety employees from the six departments the chaplains represent, including Franklin Police, and Franklin Fire Department, Macon County Sheriff’s Office, Emergency Services, State Troopers, and Dispatchers. Recipients received a letter from the chaplains, a plaque, and a $60 gift certificate from Haywood Smokehouse. Mark Stanfield and Joe Kempton (Franklin Fire Dept.), and Garret Hovis (Franklin Police Dept.), were each recognized for “going above and beyond their normal above and beyond,” according to Peggs.
New zoning option introduced
Prior to attendees speaking to the board about their concerns, Franklin Town Planner Justin Setser and Town Attorney John Henning Jr. introduced two issues involving area properties. Neighborhood mixed use (NMU) zoning is primarily intended for “limited, neighborhood oriented commercial business and service activities in close proximity to major residential neighborhoods.” [Town ordinance 152.026] The agenda item involved a just-over 10-acre property, located at Golfview Drive and Womack Street. According to Setser, David Forkner of Kavod Athletic Compound submitted an application to rezone the property, which was recently purchased. The request was for a change from residential (R-1) to NMU.
Following the planning board overview, seven speakers, all of whom are residents in the immediate area, spoke regarding the potential rezoning. The overriding concern was with traffic in the immediate area, with a somewhat lesser focus on future businesses moving in if the current one should fold for some reason. Six of the speakers opposed rezoning, while one was in support of it due to opportunities the change would afford area youth. Kavod Athletic Compound includes a karate academy, which focuses on youth fitness activities and currently operates elsewhere in the community.
Travis Shook, also with Kavod, addressed council members on intentions for the property. “The idea of our businesses was to restore the family unit on God, to bring the community together … we’ve heard from [others] and it’s less about what we are doing and more about who or what might come in after us.” Shook then introduced the idea of “conditional zoning.”
For North Carolina, conditional zoning “secures a given property owner’s agreement to limit the use of the property to a particular use or to subject the tract to certain restrictions as a precondition to rezoning.” Shook added that after speaking with various residents in the vicinity of the purchased property, Kavod Athletic Compound has proposed putting in some houses on their design because “we heard from the planning board there is a housing need.” They also want to include a park and playground on the property – all in an effort to allow and encourage kids to participate in more safe, outdoor activities.
The second property up for discussion was proposed for potential demolition or removal. It is located at 981 East Main Street in Franklin. Henning Jr. presented information to the board including a letter to Mayor Jack Horton from the property owner. In that letter, the owner asked the town council to allow him time to have the property adequately repaired, cleaned up, and subsequently listed for resale.
The letter requested that condemnation of the property be stayed for six months in order to allow for private addressal of the issue and potential eventual interest by the town in purchasing the property for its own use. The entire process was predicated by numerous calls and requests submitted by concerned area residents as to the activity associated with and occurring within the house located at the address. These requests have now continued for one year, prompting the town code enforcement office to take steps for compliance due to inaction demonstrated by the current owner.
Dr. Ann Shower, Animal House Veterinary Clinic in Franklin [located next door to the property in question], spoke during the public hearing on the proposed demolition. She expressed dismay with the conditions in and around the property.
“I trapped all the feral cats on the property and spayed and neutered them … I’m still seeing people crossing my property [to get to the condemned one for squatting] all the time; I really appreciate consideration [for demolition].” Henning Jr. offered to the council, “Nothing has happened at the property and nothing has happened in a legal sense to change the condition to prevent adopting this ordinance to take the step to remediate the problem. I suggest you adopt it at this time.”
Following the public hearing, a motion was made to adopt the property condemnation ordinance, which was approved unanimously.
Public Hearing set for additional zoning projects
Setser updated the council on an Old Murphy Road property that includes multiple owners of 110 parcels consisting of residential and commercial zoning as well as vacant lots. The property is part of a large rezoning effort begun earlier this year by the planning board. Some proposed changes include parcels zoned commercial (C2) that were slated to be updated to residential (R1), which property owners would like to remain commercial. Setser reported the planning board instead allocated those properties as mixed use, which allows for ongoing usage as is but does not permit “full-blown commercial” zoning in the future. A call for public hearing was introduced and approved for Nov. 6.
Social district effort moving on
Establishing a social district [an outside area where patrons can carry and consume alcoholic beverages] has been a topic of discussion for months. Specifics concerning parameters of the proposal can be found on the Town of Franklin website: https://www.franklinnc.com/ town- council-agenda-minutes.html.
Franklin citizens and business owners Dave Linn (Shriners/80’s Flashback); Graham Norris (Lazy Hiker Brewing Company); Colin McGuiness (Gracious Plates on Main); and Dion Sena (Slanted Window Tasting Station); all spoke in support of a social district. They collectively lobbied for the additional business and tourism spending and larger footprint around Franklin where customers can mingle while attending festivals and other events downtown. The council subsequently voted in favor of directing Town Manager Amie Owens to move forward with social districting efforts, which will include a public hearing, a county commissioners’ presentation, and a state approval application.