Election Day is Tomorrow

Tomorrow, Tuesday, October 24th, is Election Day. I am incredibly proud of the campaign that I have run and am honored that so many of my fellow residents have responded so positively to its message. This has truly been the most humbling experience of my life and I am so grateful for the privilege of hearing all of your thoughts, stories, and concerns. Franklin is at a pivotal point in its story and I believe it is time for change on the Board of Mayor and Alderman to continue #MovingFranklinForward. If you are concerned about making sure there is a plan to sustainably provide for the growth, ensure infrastructure planning and development, maintain our high quality of life and public safety, and promote fiscal responsibility, I would sincerely appreciate your vote tomorrow.

Ward 4 has 6 polling locations. If you need help getting to the polls, want to know where your precinct is, or if you have questions about where I stand on the issues, please send me a message and I will help in any way I can. My email is liz@liz4alderman.com and I can be reached through PM here on Facebook as well. Polls will be open 7am-7pm. Please take the few minutes of your time to make sure your voice is heard. I am so humbled and grateful for all of your support. Tomorrow – let’s make our vision for Franklin become a reality.


The Board of Mayor and Alderman and Schools

As of this writing, I have knocked on just shy of 900 doors in Ward 4. It has been one of the most humbling experiences of my life to get a chance to speak directly to the voters and hear what their needs and concerns are for Franklin. The number one question I am asked is what can Board of Mayor and Alderman (BOMA) do about issues facing the schools? The real answer – it’s complicated.

Being totally transparent: BOMA does not make any direct decisions about the schools, for neither Franklin Special School District (FSSD) or Williamson County Schools (WCS). FSSD has its own school board and while a portion of city taxes do go to the FSSD schools, it is my understanding that the district lines are set by the Tennessee state legislature. The Williamson County Commission along with the Williamson County School Board decides issues related to the county schools.

But…and this is a big but…BOMA decisions DO impact the schools. How? A significant portion of the growth and development has been approved by BOMA and on average, each time a new house or apartment is built, 2.5 children are entering the school systems. This is before we even discuss the referendum proposal to raise the City of Franklin sales tax and donate that portion to the Williamson County School system which means that if that passes, the City of Franklin is going to be helping to fund the county schools as well.

The questions I receive in Ward 4 range from: Can my neighborhood be rezoned to Franklin High School? What do you think of the boundary lines of Franklin Special? How are we going to afford the new schools that the County wants to build (According to Dr. Looney, that will be an estimated 17-21 new schools in the next 10 years)?

Unfortunately, BOMA cannot answer these questions directly. However, with different leadership on BOMA, the City can be more
selective in approving projects that really take into consideration all of the impact that new development puts on the City: from traffic congestion, to infrastructure, as well as the schools.

My daughter will be 2 the end of this month. My husband and I are excited for her to attend the amazing WCS system in a few years. These issues directly affect me and so many of my friends and neighbors and I would like to be a part of the solution. If elected Alderman, it will be my responsibility and my duty to take into consideration everything that growth and development does to the City and to make sure that the needs of families are adequately met. I am also willing to speak on my constituents behalf to the Williamson County Commission, and both the WCS School Board and the FSSD School Board at their meetings, if there are issues before them that directly affect Ward 4 and all of Franklin.

My family is so grateful we get to raise our daughter in Franklin and I want to do everything I can to ensure she has a bright future here. If elected, I’ll do everything in my power to ensure that for your families too.


Life gets crazy but please take time to vote

The early voting polls are now open for the City of Franklin Alderman election and will be until October 19th. Election Day is fast approaching on Tuesday, October 24th. In 2013, the last time the Ward Alderman for Franklin were elected, only 2% of the electorate turned out to vote. For Ward 4, where there are almost 12,000 registered voters, only 269 voted in 2013.

At the end of each day, early voting numbers are sent to the candidates and as of Saturday, October 7, 103 voters in Ward 4 have gone to the polls. This is a good start but I hope that as many people as possible that live in the Franklin city limits will take the 2 minutes involved to go and express your choices for our city government.

Tip O’Neil, a former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, had a famous saying “All politics are local.” We tend to forget that the people who are making the laws that have the greatest effect on our day to day lives are not in Washington D.C. (unless you are a DC metro resident) but your local elected officials. The Board of Mayor and Alderman makes decisions that decide:

1. What roads will be built and repaired
2. What land is being developed and what neighborhoods are going in (which means the City does impact the schools)
3. Water and storm water infrastructure
4. Where sidewalks, streetlights, turn signals, stop signs, crosswalks, etc. are implemented
5. Staffs our police and fire departments
6. Zoning laws
7. How to spend your hard-earned tax dollars

And much, much more.

I totally get it. I know how busy our lives are. I have a toddler, I’m self-employed, I’m involved at church and I help care for aging family. Life is crazy with work, doctor appointments, play dates, preschool events, family obligations, church functions, social engagements…but I try to do my best and make time to vote because I want to make sure that my voice is heard in my local community. My local government impacts my life on a daily basis and I want to know that I have had a say in the people who are representing me. We become a better community when our government represents the needs and concerns of its citizens.

Are you concerned about the ever increasing traffic congestion and the lack of infrastructure planning?

Are you worried about the rate of growth and development?

Are you concerned about the risk of flooding and storm water/sewer issues because of the rate of development?

Do you believe the quality of life in Franklin is being negatively impacted by all the change?

Those are the main reasons I decided to run for Alderman, and if you share them, I would be honored to receive your vote for Alderman of Ward 4.


Where to Vote:

Early Voting: October 4-19
Williamson County Administrative Complex (where you get your car tags)
1320 West Main Street
8-4:30 Monday through Friday
8-noon Saturday

Election Day: Tuesday, October 24
Your assigned voting precinct
Find your Voting Precinct

HUD Posts Public Notice about Harpeth Square Project in The Tennessean

It was brought to my attention this week that HUD (the US Federal Bureau of Housing and Urban Development) placed a public notice in the August 14, 2017, classifieds of The Tennessean concerning the Harpeth Square development.

The Harpeth Square project has received a lot of press in the last few weeks, with construction to begin any day now. The HUD notice received little to no attention in the media that I know of, and multiple discussions with Franklin residents the past few days have brought me to the conclusion that few were aware it had been placed. This is particularly concerning since the public notice states “HUD has determined that the proposed Harpeth Square project may have an adverse effect on the historic properties within the Area of Potential Effect (APE) of the Franklin Downtown Historic District.”

I believe it is important that the residents of Ward 4 and Franklin know that this was in the paper, even if construction gets underway soon as scheduled. I am particularly interested to see what the answer is to the “creative mitigation” referenced in the notice and am also wondering if the project has been approved as being in accord with the National Historic Preservation Act, as the first paragraph of the notice states that “All of the development is undergoing review to comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and its implanting regulations at 36 C.F.R. Part 800, Protection of Historic and Cultural Properties.”

Section 106 of the NHPA can be found at this link.

If you are interested to see the plans for the Harpeth Square development, they can be found here.

Many people have expressed concern to me about the height of the building and its proximity to the curb, as well as the traffic impact from this development on Downtown Franklin. I think it’s important that residents and business owners have all the information on a project of this magnitude, and since it seems this notice went without much fanfare, I worry that is not the case. Unfortunately, the comment time for the HUD notice closed August 24th, only 10 days after the notice was filed, but I am going to reach out to HUD Technical Branch Chief Ms. Tilda S. Davis (the woman named in the notice from the Bureau) to see if I can get an answer to any questions people might have. I am also wondering if this was properly noticed to the public by HUD at all since it was placed in The Tennessean and not The Williamson Herald. Please let me know if you have any questions or thoughts as I definitely want to hear them.


Deadline to Register for Franklin Alderman Election is September 25th

The deadline to register to vote for the Franklin Alderman Election is fast approaching: September 25th.

Tennessee is now offering the ability to register to vote online. You can also register to vote by filling out a paper registration application and dropping it off at the Williamson County Election Commission at the Williamson County Annex: 1320 W Main St Suite #140, Franklin, TN 37064.

If you voted last November in the 2016 Presidential election, you are already registered to vote in the Alderman Election. To check your voter registration status, you can visit the Voter Look-Up Tool on the Tennessee Secretary of State’s website.

Absentee ballots and the ability to vote by mail might also be a possibility. To do so, you must meet certain conditions.

Early Voting is October 4-19 at the Williamson County Annex: 1320 W Main St Suite #140, Franklin, TN 37064

Election Day is Tuesday, October 24th and voting will be conducted at your assigned Voting Precinct. This information is best found via the Voter Registration Look-Up Tool on the Tennessee Secretary of State’s website.

The Franklin City Alderman Election is a non-partisan race. By voting, you ensure your voice is being heard and your needs represented in your municipal government. Franklin is at a pivotal time in it’s story; don’t miss the opportunity to have your input in Moving Franklin Forward.


Rezoning Request on Boyd Mill Avenue: Putting the Cart before the Horse

I attended the August 24th Franklin Municipal Planning Commission meeting with concern for the rezoning request for a tract of land off Boyd Mill Avenue in front of the Franklin Green subdivision. This small parcel of land was previously a farm, and the intent I assume is to put some form of subdivision on the property. I say assume because when the developer approached the Planning Commission, they informed the commission that they aren’t sure yet what type of development they intend to build. My jaw almost hit the floor. Why are any parcels of land being considered for rezoning without knowing what is going to be developed there?

I am not anti-development. The City of Franklin must grow and develop, but it must be done responsibly and sustainably. There have been many developments proposed over the last few years, and many have been contested, with current residents showing concern for the increased density and build on what was once a very rural landscape. Many have been proposed and rezoned then rezoned again when different types of housing are ultimately proposed and built. Some of this is inevitable and some of this is preventable. What is preventable is rezoning before we even have the faintest idea of what the new development will look like, what the density impact is expected to be, and how it will change the look of the surrounding area.

I recognize that preliminary plans are just that–preliminary. I also realize that the neighborhood that I live in, Spencer Hall, was once owned by the Spencer family, and that the backyard my daughter plays in used to be farmland. Many of the neighborhoods of west Franklin, in particular, have been developed in the last 20 years from these more rural landscapes. I hope that when these neighborhoods were proposed, preliminary information was given to the FMPC so that they could make the best available recommendation to the Board of Mayor and Alderman for the City.

This piece of land outside Franklin Green subdivision is currently zoned R-1 which means Residential 1. In Franklin, R-1 zoning is defined as:
“The purposes of the Detached Residential 1(R-1) District, hereinafter referred to as the “R-1 District”, are to:
(a) Provide for low-density detached residential development;
(b) Protect environmentally sensitive areas, such as floodplains and steep slopes; and
(c) Provide conditions and standards to help ensure the compatibility of new development with surrounding large-lot neighborhoods.”

The request was to rezone to R-2, which has the definition in the City’s zoning ordinance as being to:
“(a) Provide for moderate-density residential development;
(b) Protect environmentally sensitive areas, such as floodplains and steep slopes; and
(c) Provide conditions and standards to help ensure the compatibility of new
development with surrounding neighborhoods.”

You can find the full City of Franklin zoning code here.

My concern lies in the fact that there hasn’t been a preliminary mockup presented to the Planning Commission, and therefore, such a thing will not be considered by the Board of Mayor and Alderman when they decide to grant or deny the rezoning request. I recognize that plans do change as development goes along, but it seems that if there isn’t at least some baseline, by the time the construction gets underway, the rezoned R-2 may not be sufficient, and there may be a request for something like SD-R, which allows for multiple types of homes versus just single family dwellings. I am not against multi-concept development by any means, it’s one of the benefits to Westhaven, for example. I just believe that conceptual visions should be outlined from the get-go, so that the City can make the best decisions possible for each individual project with as much information as possible.

The City seems to be playing catch up instead of using the leverage it has from the outset when it comes to growth. It’s time we go on Offense and not Defense. We can grow this City in a way that is designed to preserve the character of the Franklin we know and love, while making sure that we responsibly plan for its future.


UPDATE: The Alderman voted against the rezoning proposal at their meeting on September 12, 2017. The property will stay currently zoned for R-1 until further notice.

The Dangers of Unplanned Growth

I spent a good part of my childhood on the west side of Houston, Texas. Some of my family and many friends are still there, so this weekend’s historic, catastrophic flooding has been very personal and sad. While life on the Gulf Coast is always rife with risk of hurricanes and tropical systems, this event is unprecedented. The recovery from this flood is going to take years, and the economic impact we will all feel country-wide has not yet set in. Houstonians are strong, courageous people, but this is a tough one to swallow. My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected, and I find myself proud to be at once a Texan and a Tennessee Volunteer – a name that Tennesseans received for helping Texas in both the Texas Revolution and the Mexican War. I know many Tennesseans are already on their way to help, and many more will help as the recovery and cleanup begins in the coming days and weeks.

It has been particularly painful to see such a disaster occur when so much of it was worsened by inadequate municipal planning. Houston is the 4th largest city in the US – it has a population in its metropolitan area of 6.5 million people. Famous for its policy of no-zoning, there has been so much development in the past 12 years since I moved to Tennessee in 2005 that I hardly recognize it whenever I go to visit. The infill development is astounding, and neighborhoods are changing over seemingly overnight. The natural bayou system that exists to move water along and out to the Gulf of Mexico is inhibited by large master planned communities and poor infrastructure development. The City had strict codes in the 1970s, and many developers avoided the city limits and began to develop the surrounding counties. There was not a lot of communication between the different urban and suburban development plans; areas that probably should have never been developed now have entire subdivisions under water. There is limited public transportation, and as a result, there is massive sprawling infrastructure, much of which is aging and insufficient for what is asked of it daily. Much of the city sits less than a hundred feet above sea level, and streets regularly flood in even the smallest rain storm. This devastating situation was going to catch up to Houston at some point, and that time has unfortunately arrived. It’s truly heartbreaking.

The entire ordeal has had me thinking about Franklin and where Franklin sits in its own growth and development story. I truly believe Franklin is at a pivotal moment in its history, as it is no longer a sleepy little town south of Nashville, but an economic force in its own right, and one of the most booming areas of the entire country. My husband and I were here in 2010 for the Nashville flood. Our neighborhood, Spencer Hall, fortunately did not flood (with the exception of a few houses around the retention ponds), but many of our friends’ houses did. Parts of Ward 4 flooded east of downtown, particularly those that are in the Harpeth River floodplain. It’s been 7 years, and I can’t help but wonder with all the development that has occurred in our area in that time – what would Franklin look like if we had another flood of similar magnitude tomorrow? How many more neighborhoods would be under water? How many people would be affected? What would be the cost to our public infrastructure? Are we even considering this possibility in our municipal planning?

The Franklin Planning Commission has sent the Splendor Ridge subdivision proposal to BOMA with their unanimous approval. If built, it would be in the 100 year floodplain. Our infrastructure is aging in many places and insufficient to move the amount of traffic that we already have. All over Williamson County, rural farmland is being developed into master planned communities, many with significant uproar from existing residents of the area. Drive around the City limits and you’ll see multiple rezoning requests posted. The Williamson County schools are unable to keep up with the amount of students they are enrolling. Our superb and enviable quality of life here is truly is at risk if we don’t make specific changes now for the future.

Growth is a good thing, but it must be done with planning and intentionality. The City should not be approving any residential or commercial development in the 100 year floodplain – it’s just too risky. Period. No new developments should be approved without adequate infrastructure being built (and paid for!) simultaneously. We need to have a tough conversation about the importance of keeping some land undeveloped so that there is a place for water to go in the event of another catastrophic flooding event.

Franklin is one of the most desired places to live and work. We have the leverage to make sure that all growth and development is done in an appropriate way for Franklin’s future. It’s time we hit the pause button and thoroughly access the impact that all the development is having on our City’s infrastructure, safety, public services, and amenities. The situation in Houston should serve as a warning for municipal governments everywhere, but particularly here. We don’t want Franklin to mishandle this opportunity to safeguard its future. The cost of that is just too high for us and future generations.


Multi-Use Path on New Highway 96 West

On September 13 at 5:30PM there will be a Public Hearing concerning the New Highway 96 West multi-use trail that will run from Vera Valley Rd across the street from Spencer Hall Subdivision to 5th Ave in Downtown Franklin. The project, which is being funded 80% by TDOT and 20% by the City of Franklin, was recently given a second federally-funded grant that was announced by Governor Haslam on Friday, July 21. Phase 1 of the path runs from Carlisle Lane to Vera Valley, ultimately connecting to Boyd Mill Avenue by Jim Warren Park, and Phase 2 will connect Body Mill Avenue to 5th Avenue in downtown.

New Highway 96 currently has very limited sidewalk connecting the residences and neighborhoods in the western parts of Wards 2 and 4 to the City center or even to Jim Warren Park, the largest park in the City of Franklin. Once the path is complete, it will be possible safely walk, run, bike, skateboard, or even rollerblade from say Five Points to Front Street in Westhaven which will only serve to make Franklin healthier, accessible and interconnected. As a mom, I am so excited to know that we can walk and bike as a family to Jim Warren, downtown for festivals, or even to the retail in Westhaven without the concern for our safety with the busy traffic that is SR96.

The public hearing will be taking comments and concerns particularly from those who will most benefit and use this multi-use trail. The more western Ward 4 residents that can be in attendance the better. I am encouraged that the State of Tennessee as well as the City is recognizing the needs of those of us in the western part of Franklin to have easier and safer pedestrian and bicyclist access to town and am very enthusiastically in support of this project. Ultimately, the City and State plan to connect the path to the new Mack Hatcher extension that was also given the green light by TDOT this year.


Public Notice Calendar information:
City of Franklin Public Hearing for SR96 Multi-Use Path
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
5:30 PM
Board Room inside City Hall

No Great Option: The Columbia Avenue Expansion Project

Anyone who lives on the west or south side of Franklin is aware of the traffic congestion problems that Columbia Ave is experiencing from Down’s Boulevard to Mack Hatcher. Bumper to bumper traffic, no matter what time of day, can make travel on this stretch quite the headache. When we moved into our house in 2009, I could be at the Target in 5 minutes; I’m lucky now if I can get there in 15.

The area off Columbia Avenue is quite built up with residential neighborhoods, new apartment complexes, restaurants, and multiple businesses. It also has one of the worst accident records of any road in the City, and I know this firsthand after being hit from behind by a truck and shoved into the car in front of me in November 2012.

The City has put together a special website to discuss the options. There are two videos explaining the two proposals. The only one that would meet the current City codes of requiring a Level of Service (LOS) C or better would be the roundabout option. The other option to expand to 5 lanes would be a LOS F.

My concern with the roundabout option is that Columbia Avenue is a major truck route and trucks turning onto Columbia from side streets and businesses after making deliveries will have a hard time navigating the roundabouts when not going straight up or down the road. With that said, if it’s the only available option that actually meets the City codes, it should be the chosen option. I do not understand at all while the City is entertaining ANY options that are not up to our coding standards. That is absolutely ridiculous and if time allowed, I would like to go completely back to the drawing board and take ONLY proposals that meet City code requirements. I don’t fully believe this proposal is what is needed to make sure the road is ready to handle the growth it will see in the next 10 years.

Take a moment to visit the webpage that the City has organized. Watch the videos. Look at the proposals and if you can, please join me Wednesday, August 30th from 4:00-6 for the next special Board of Mayor and Alderman “Open House” on the Columbia Avenue project. We need to make sure that the Board understands that this decision MUST be done with the foresight of future growth. If not, in 5-10 years, we will be in the exact same predicament and have wasted a lot of resources pursuing an inadequate project.


Columbia Avenue Information