Habitat for Humanity seeks to rezone property

Published 10:06 am Saturday, April 24, 2010

FRANKLIN—A lot on the northern edge of downtown Franklin that’s been vacant for about 10 years could soon be the site of two new homes if Southampton/Franklin Habitat for Humanity gets its way.

Habitat for Humanity — a non-profit agency that provides interest-free loans to people who would not be able to purchase a home — has requested a conditional rezoning of a .48-acre piece of property at Gardner and North Franklin streets. The area is currently zoned for general business and the request is to rezone it to residential.

“We feel like it’s a 50-50 chance it’ll be done,” said Roland Jernigan, a member of the local Habitat for Humanity’s board of directors, who has been working on the project.

The rezoning request is set for public hearing before the Planning Commission at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 29, at City Hall. The Planning Commission will then forward its recommendation to the City Council, which must give final approval.

Donald Goodwin, the city’s director of community development, said homes sat on the lot until they were demolished after the 1999 flood.

“They were really old and had been there for years, probably since the ‘50s or so,” he said. The property was zoned for business, but the homes were “legally nonconforming,” or grandfathered.

“Once they were demolished and removed they couldn’t be put back because the property is (zoned for) business,” Goodwin said. “It’s been vacant ever since.”

Jernigan hopes that will soon change.

“We just hope that the city government feels the same way that we do—that it is a good opportunity for affordable housing,” he said. “These will not be rental properties.”

The property is currently owned by Powell Farms Rentals.

“It’s a gift in-kind from the current owners,” Jernigan said.

He said Habitat is building a home on South High Street this year, and, if this rezoning request is approved, it hopes to build homes on the new lot soon.

“We would hope to build those out in the coming two or three years,” he said.