Planners approve scaled-back community center

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 9, 2007

FRANKLIN—A proposed community center to be built near the intersection of Broad and South streets can be constructed, however, without as much space as was in the original plan.

William Baxter and the Church of God Pentecostal Oblation, a non-profit organization, sought a variance to an ordinance that requires a 25-foot setback for business only in the instances of having business and residential district frontage.

The property, approximately .7 acres, is currently zoned general business district. Adjacent properties are zoned similarly, except an existing residence, zoned medium density residential. The center is slated to be the home of a variety of programs for youth of all ages, including mentoring, tutoring and recreational activities.

The city planning commission discussed the issue at a recent meeting, and recommended approving the variance to the BZA. Staff recommended it due to topographic, drainage and lot size constraints.

Jack Norvell of Hanging Tree Road in Courtland spoke, saying he spends every day in Franklin and has volunteered for 27 years in the city, including serving on the local Beautification Commission.

&uot;If you’re going to build a community center, build it right,&uot; he said. &uot;The Beautification Commission placed the setback at 25 feet for a reason. For the safety of pedestrians and so drivers can see children playing.&uot;

He also noted no one wanted &uot;staggered housing.&uot; He added, &uot;Pick a better place to build it—out of the flood zone.&uot;

Ronnie McClenny who owns a piece of property behind the site of the community center was also concerned about the safety of the youth, saying that he has seen the adjacent ditch fill to the top during heavy rains and has seen many snakes in the ditch.

Baxter said his group is only trying to improve the city and is just asking for &uot;cooperation from the city.&uot;

He said, &uot;The whole city is in a flood zone. We have to deal with it. The children will be protected. It’s in the plan.&uot;

Daryl Fenner, who will be involved in the construction of the building, assured the board that the area is going to be &uot;fenced in and secure,&uot; and that the group has met with city officials regarding barricades near the ditch and retaining maintenance access for the city.

City Planner Amanda Crocker told the board that while the building cannot be moved back any farther, the size of the building could be reduced.

William T. Hopkins of Ward 6 said, &uot;This is the first (hearing) I’ve dealt with where it involves a community center. This is great for the public, the children, something for parents to get involved in. But sometimes we shouldn’t consider those things when making decisions like this. It really puts us in between a rock and a hard place.

&uot;I’m not really in favor of this variance.&uot;

Vice Chairman Walter Hobbs of Ward 2 said the situation was &uot;touching.&uot;

The board voted 3-2 to deny the variance, with Hobbs and Charles Grant of Ward 5 opposed. Alverce Holloway was absent from the meeting.