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.

–Elizabeth

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.

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