Just the Facts

Affordable housing projects on the table

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Dan Finnerty

Rezoning projects have been continuously on the agenda for the Town of Franklin Planning Department in recent months. At the May 6 Town of Franklin Council meeting, hearings were held for four different projects, three involving potential new housing efforts and one related to the new Franklin High School (FHS) project.

Franklin Town Planner Justin Setser first requested an additional hearing to be held June 3 to allow for public input regarding a text amendment related to Special Use Permitting. 

The application to amend the text-only of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) was described by Setser as “Pertaining to changes around special use permits so they don’t interfere with conditional zoning.” One of the main changes requested within the overall effort was reducingthe minimum size associated within traditional neighborhoods from 20 to seven acres.

TOWN PLANNER Justin Setser explained proposed rezoning plans primarily involving new housing at the May 7 meeting of the Town Council.

The first scheduled hearing on the evening involved conditional rezoning for a 10.63-acre tract located at 227 Siler Road. The proposed development for that location is a 60-unit, age 55-and-above affordable housing community and is defined within the associated ordinance as “providing for affordable housing for seniors in Franklin” and “integrating higher density housing with existing commercial uses into a future urban mixed-use area.”

Stephen Drake, as the applicant representing Broad Craft Construction and Development, stated his company “specializes in providing affordable senior housing throughout the state of North Carolina.”

 “Demand for senior housing is extremely high in Macon County and Franklin alike,” Drake said. “We are responding to a lack of affordable housing for seniors by proposing a new community called ‘The Lofts of Franklin,’ which would be 100% affordable housing for seniors and rental pricing would be based off of income.” 

According to Drake, of the 13 affordable housing communities located within Macon County, only one is currently designated for seniors (Oak Forest Apartments) and has a long waiting list. 

“The Lofts of Franklin will consist of 54 high quality, energy efficient apartment homes for seniors who are 55 years of age and older … we’ll be targeting seniors that make at or less than 30, 50, 60, or 80 percent of Macon County’s average median income,” he provided.

Drake explained that the Lofts will have 24 one-bedroom units and 30 two-bedroom units and will also include an elevator for access. All the units will have laundry closets with washer/dryer hookups and will be 100% Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible.

Tamara Zwinak, a resident of nearby Indigo Apartments, addressed council members and stated her belief that senior housing is sorely needed in Franklin. 

“Maybe 15-20% of the people who live in my complex are seniors.” She went on to describe the environment within the complex as “multi-family structured,” and offered, “Due to many families at Indigo having children, who, in turn, don’t have a large play area within the complex, the area can get busy and loud. I really support the new project – it’s needed.”

Not just for seniors

The second hearing focused on a request for conditional zoning within a tract consisting of 7.2 acres with frontage on Siler Road and Firefly Lane. The applicant, Solstice Partners, out of Cary, N.C., proposed a 60-unit, four structure, affordable housing development consisting of one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments and including 108 parking spots. This would not be senior-only housing.

Tammy Stern, representing the builder, addressed the council concerning their proposed project:

“We have been doing affordable housing work across North Carolina for 30 years. We build and maintain ownership of similar properties in perpetuity so we would be long-term partners with the Town of Franklin on this project.” 

Stern shared that sewer and water are already available at the site and her company is working with N.C. Department of Transportation to make a safe connection to Siler Road, including a deceleration lane as well as a sidewalk along the frontage area. Laundry facilities, common room, and play areas will also be part of the complex. 

Zwinak again followed the applicant by reiterating her desire for another affordable housing project. With both proposed projects being adjacent to Indigo Apartments, she emphasized a need that exists within the overall residential area. 

“I just want to add that we need an unfenced area for children ages 8 and up. Working parents aren’t able to always take their kids to the park. It’s not safe for children to go onto Siler Road in order to reach the Greenway. Ideally, I would love to see a connection from this property to the Greenway.”

The final conditional zoning hearing concerned an area encompassed within Sawmill Village Lane and Allman Drive. The associated project applicant, Franklin Abbington Mill, LP, represented property owner, Arrowood Construction, LLC, out of Atlanta, Ga., as the builder. The proposed multi-family complex would consist of two, three-story residential buildings with 48 units and 86 parking spaces. 

Breck Kean, of Rea Ventures, spoke on behalf of the applicant and summed up the housing efforts. 

“We’re all here before you tonight because of need … we’re all competing for the same resources, the N.C. Housing Finance Agency Housing Tax Credit.”

“I wish I could tell you that all three of these housing projects could be built, but the unfortunate truth is maybe none of them will be because we are competing for resources from the entire western portion of North Carolina,” said Kean. “But only one of these projects will be selected for Franklin.”

MAYOR JACK Horton at the May 6 Town of Franklin Council meeting recognizing Municipal Clerk Nicole Bradley and her contributions to the town.

Rounding out the evening’s hearings, was an application from Macon County to rezone 31.7 acres in support of the new FHS building project. The requested change was from mixed use to residential (R-2). The only speaker to address the council about this rezoning issue was Macon County Manager Derek Roland. He explained that currently portions of the school property are zoned R-2 and portions are zoned neighborhood mixed use. 

“We are trying to bring consistency in zoning of that property and we respectfully request this board honor this request for rezoning,” said Roland. 

The council voted on the FHS rezoning request and unanimously approved the application. No action was taken on the other zoning requests.