Planners table Franklin Summit recommendation

Published 10:14 am Saturday, October 29, 2011


FRANKLIN—The Planning Commission on Thursday tabled a developer’s request to build 108 apartments and 82 townhouses on North College Drive in Franklin, where six unsold condominiums were built three years ago.

This vote came after seven of the 12 residents attending the public hearing to rezone 20 acres opposed the project. Outside council chambers, Vera Sykes shouted at the developers to go away and said they weren’t wanted.

Suffolk developer Robert Williams owns Franklin Summit.

James Smith III, partner and president of development for Tri-City Realty and Development LLC, acknowledged that “the economy’s kind of tanked,” but that after careful market study, he and Williams believe their apartments can be “a big solution.”

The city could gain through property taxes, utilities and food taxes as people move in, Smith said.

Residents could be hired for construction. Smith added he’s asked Lowe’s in Franklin for its help.

“Hire locally, buy locally,” he said.

On the opposing side, Courtland resident and real estate appraiser Ash Cutchin urged the planning commission to stick with the city’s comprehensive plan by not approving more rental units.

Jerry Bryant of Meadow Lane said the project would come up to his back door. He reiterated Cutchin’s point that more rentals would go against the city’s plan. Bryant predicted that the apartments would become government subsidized. Lastly, to rezone would be what he called “a bailout” for the developer.

Michael Edwards, whose family lives on Sycamore Road adjacent to the proposed project, questioned the price established for the units.

As previously reported, townhouses could sell for $179,000 to $209,000, while the existing condominium units are priced at $159,000 to $189,000. Two-bedroom apartments would rent for $900 to $1,100 a month.

“I know of no student who could afford to rent,” said Edwards. “We’ve already seen some vacant houses for sale or rent.”

He added that the property has been neglected with grass gone uncut for lengthy periods. Tommy Sykes on Sycamore Road, whose house also backs up to the Summit property, said he agrees “100 percent” with what had already been said.

“What happens if Franklin Summit can’t find enough renters?” Meadow Lane resident Ben Powell asked. “I sympathize with Franklin Summit, but risks must be accepted. The city doesn’t need the strain by large numbers of people (on services such as police, fire and schools). Don’t punish citizens to relieve the developer.”

Planning commission member Ray Smith acknowledged his fear of “too many rental houses,” but made the motion to postpone any recommendation to City Council so that Franklin Summit could address issues raised, and that the full board could be present.

Chairman Dr. Daniel Peak Jr. and Vice Chairman Lawyer Artis were unable to attend.

Smith’s motion was seconded by Carolyn Williams. They and James Riddick voted for tabling, with Robert Tyler voting no.

The next meeting is 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, at City Hall.