December is known as a festive month, and the Town of Franklin Council meeting Dec. 4 had a celebratory feel to it. The evening opened with the Clerk of Court Shawna Lamb swearing in the newest member, Robbie Tompa, who replaces Adam Kimsey (see article page 15).
In addition to Tompa, Mayor Jack Horton and fellow council members Mike Lewis and Joe Collins were also sworn in.
Following the swearing-in ceremony, a vote ensued to elect a vice mayor, a position held by Collins for the past two years.
Council member Stacy Guffey was unanimously elected as the new vice mayor. Council members each serve four-year terms while mayors serve two years.
Horton also formally reappointed three others’ positions – Town Manager Amie Owens, Town Attorney John Henning Jr., and Town Clerk Nicole Bradley.
Next on the agenda was a public hearing on a conditional zoning amendment, referring to zoning that allows for flexibility and compatibility with neighboring uses. Town Planner Justin Setser provided the council an overview on the amendment and advised that all parties included within conditional zoning decisions must agree to designated uses. While no one signed up to speak on the topic, square footage (sq. ft.) limitations were most discussed. At the outset, a 30,000 sq. ft. minimum was offered by the planning board, which had also received limits as low as 12,000 sq. ft.
“We will need some discussion before you approve it (the lower threshold) … If you set it that low, our meetings are going to be really long,” said Henning. His point was that too many qualifying requests result in the council needing to more frequently decide on approval.
Council Member David Culpepper also questioned the wisdom of lowering the limit too much.
“I’m scared a lower threshold will trap regular people trying to have a normal business,” said Culpepper. “Specifically, I’m referring to commercial applications where if we set the threshold too low, it may become burdensome for a business owner to have to keep that commercial use in perpetuity.”
“You need some means of approval. When it gets to this size this council will have an opportunity to legislatively review it – talk to whoever you need to – talk to the developer about it, and think through what the public may want to see,” said Henning.
“This way, you have some latitude and you can make some compromises and adjustments so everybody can get some of what they are trying to get,” said Horton.
At the close of the discussion, a 15,000 sq. ft. limit was approved by a 4-2 vote.
The zoning hearing was followed by a period of public input. Jim Akins asked the council to do more to slow traffic and enforce current laws in order to provide more protection to pedestrians on Main Street.
Joe Griffith, representing ’80s Flashback Weekend, brought up social districting, which permits alcohol to be carried and consumed in designated areas.
“We believe that residents of Franklin and Macon County will not turn downtown Franklin into a scene nobody wants,” said Griffith. “The idea is to allow events to occur on Main Street in a civil manner.”
Cory McCall, an owner of Outdoor 76, added, “Clayton did a temporary social district on ‘Black Friday,’ so you can imagine the number of people down in Clayton [Ga.]. We participated in that event and it was super easy; everyone was extremely respectful.”
Owens introduced a revamped social district map that excludes Macon County-owned areas originally included within the framework of the proposed district. She also iterated that event sponsors are eligible to suspend social district activity for their event if they choose to do so. After some discussion, the council voted unanimously for a hearing on social districting to be held at the January 2024 meeting.
During departmental reports, Town Tax Collector Sabrina Scruggs shared that a 3-year-old won this year’s pumpkin roll first prize, at 942 feet. Additionally, opening night of Winter Wonderland included 8-year-old Willow Wright, who is recovering from kidney cancer, throwing the switch to light the tree. In response to Wright being told to light the tree, Horton said, “She’s got a lot of gumption … she put her little hands on her hips and said ‘I’m eight years old, I know how to take instructions!’”
The next meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 2, in the Town Hall Board Room, at 6 p.m.