Rezoning work continues in and around Franklin as the Town of Franklin’s (TOF) planning board works through various steps to bring areas and neighborhoods into compliance with correct zoning categories. At the November 6 TOF Council meeting, one of the newest project proposals dominated the evening.
The latest effort includes 110 parcels, all of which have been nominated to be reclassified from secondary commercial (C2) to residential (R-1/2), neighborhood mixed use (NMU), highway commercial (C3), or light industrial (I1). The geographical area in question consists of just over 154 acres and is contained outside of the TOF municipality, but within its extra-territorial jurisdiction.
During a scheduled public hearing session, five area residents addressed council members. The overall consensus was approval and concurrence with the planning board as well as Town Planner Justin Setser’s work thus far in the rezoning process. However, one property owner, Chris Green, who owns two parcels in the zone, expressed his dismay with rezoning occurring without consent of property owners.
Greene expressed, “I, as someone who is not represented by the town, because I am not able to vote inside town limits – I don’t feel that it’s fair that I am able to have my property rezoned when I have no redress and I’m not able to vote for this.”
Setser responded that he was not previously notified of the concern and Green admitted he was not aware he could have contacted the planning board with his questions prior to the public hearing session. “We [planning board] were looking at making [rezoning] compatible with what current uses are, and we don’t know what anyone’s intentions are if they don’t tell us,” said Setser. “Zoning is also about protecting people’s rights; it’s not about letting you do everything you want with your land – it’s also about protecting what’s there.”
Council member David Culpepper opined that while the area being discussed is not home to large commercial businesses, which would garner strong support from the town otherwise, small business opportunities should be equally supported. He said: “Why are we dogging small people about commercial stuff? These are our people; there is a quarry, there’s an asphalt plant, and an industrial park in the area. I’m totally uncomfortable with just taking it away from people because it is already zoned commercial.”
When council members discussed delaying any formal approval or decision regarding the rezoning to allow for more affected property owners’ awareness, Setser subsequently pointed out, “110 parcel owners got letters in the mail and there are eight signs along Old Murphy and Murphy roads notifying of the date [of the hearing]. It’s been in the paper twice and mailed twice – people not knowing about the rezoning is not a good excuse [for delaying].”
Following some legal opinion and observations offered by Town Attorney John Henning Jr., the council deferred the package back to the planning board for more study and opportunity for input before voting on approving rezoning.
An additional public hearing was called for at the next council meeting, December 4, to hear input on a proposed text amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance, Section 152.034. The hearing will focus on Conditional Zoning, which is a legislative process that will allow for “developments of certain sizes to be reviewed and certain conditions to be applied.”
In new business, Town Manager Amie Owens and Setser recommended to the council approval of a bid submitted to develop downtown wireless fidelity. Following a request for a proposal submitted in September, four bids were received. Aerolina, a South Carolina-based wireless internet services company, submitted the lowest bid responsible bid at $58,255.91. The highest proposal came in at $169,344. Funding for the project will come from grants and a $10,000 match from the TOF that was already included in this year’s budget.
The proposed system will provide no-fee public internet (Wi-Fi) access within the coverage area and should accommodate patrons at downtown businesses, residents, students, and numerous special event attendees held throughout the year in Franklin. The TOF intends to have a portal page stood up for system access once it is in place and operable. After a motion to approve, the recommendation was unanimously passed by the council.
Kelly Gooderham, senior manager at Martin, Starnes, and Associates, presented the annual audit for the TOF. The town’s general fund balance increased by approximately, $2.2 million or 37% this year, primarily as a result of increases in inter-governmental revenues and investment earnings. The current available fund balance is $7,481,920 and ad valorem (property) tax revenue increased by roughly $264,000 or 11%.
Lastly, Mayor Horton recognized Owens’ accomplishment of completing a 2023 Local Government Federal Credit Union Civic Fellow course. Fellows were selected through a competitive process, which included 170 applicants, from which only 25 were chosen. Selection was based on identification of emerging leaders in local government and the quality of the applicants’ work.