City amends subdivision rules

Published 9:29 pm Wednesday, November 26, 2008

FRANKLIN—The City Council has eased the rules for subdivision developers, allowing home construction to begin before sidewalks and street lights are installed and the final layer of asphalt is poured.

The council acted unanimously Monday on a recommendation by the Planning Commission and city staff to amend the city’s subdivision ordinance.

Representatives of Franklin-Southampton Development LLC, which is developing Riverwood Estates subdivision off North High Street, had sought the change, arguing that sidewalks often are damaged during home construction.

“The problem in the current ordinance is that we aren’t allowed to issue a building permit unless all improvements are installed,” City Attorney Taylor Williams told the council. “The developers’ request is that there be some flexibility.”

Under the amended ordinance, city staff and developers will negotiate a deadline for sidewalks, streetlights and final paving as part of an “ancillary subdivision agreement.” Absent a specific date, the deadline will be when 75 percent of planned home construction is complete. The ancillary agreement will be attached to a broader subdivision agreement that outlines responsibilities of both the developer and the city.

“By linking the installation to an agreed upon date or until 75 percent of the home construction has occurred, whichever comes first, the potential damage to the asphalt or sidewalks is limited,” City Planner Amanda Jarratt wrote in a memo explaining the change, “but the city still has assurance that the installation will occur in a timely manner.”

Whitney Saunders, an attorney representing Franklin-Southampton Development LLC, commended the ordinance amendment.

“We greatly appreciate all the time put into it,” he told the council. “We think you have an ordinance which certainly is in better position to deal realistically with the demands placed upon developers and city services.”

In another amendment to the subdivision ordinance, the council agreed to add 25 percent to a developer’s bond amount “for estimated administrative costs, inflation and potential damage to existing roads and utilities.” Formerly, the ordinance required “an additional amount as estimated by the City Engineer.”

“This change would allow the city greater protection against inflation and the rapid increase in cost of construction materials if the city was ever in the position to cash in a bond,” Jarratt wrote.