Now is time to improve Southside corridor

Published 9:31 am Wednesday, August 15, 2012

by Thomas H. Councill Jr.

The City of Franklin needs to remove its slum designation from the totality of the Southside area.

This label lowers property values in the area, increases insurance rates, affects loan values, and undermines owners’ incentives to repair and upgrade housing in the area.

The city also needs to update its residential and rental housing policies and switch from a “blighted area” to a “spot blight” removal policy.

The original Oldtown Master Plan from June 1980 identified the conditions that lead the city to declare the South Street corridor a slum area to qualify the area for Community Development Block Grant funds. CDBG funds were used and are being pursued to implement revitalization and redevelopment plans within the area.

A 1998 planning grant document states that “the Franklin Police Department cites the South Street corridor as home of the police department’s largest single number of calls for service.”

On March 25, 2002, the City of Franklin declared a resolution authorizing the preparation and filing of an application for Community Improvement Grant Funds under the Small Cities Community Development Block Grant Program of the Commonwealth of Virginia, with the resolution stating that Oldtown/Cobbtown residential area is severely blighted and that their needs to be an assessment study identified in the area as a slum and blighted area in need of removal.

The City of Franklin 2010 Comprehensive Plan, Chapter 2, Housing, page 2-11 states that “the South Street corridor, from the southwestern city limits to Bruce Street is an area of the city that has experienced a number of problems in the past several years.”

The City of Franklin 2010 Comprehensive Plan, Chapter 8, Urban Design, page 8-5 states that “need for affordable housing of high quality must be a focus of any redevelopment within the South Street corridor.”

After reviewing the comprehensive plan and other city documents, I’ve concluded that the city has not determined the width of the South Street corridor. My research leads me to believe that the South Street corridor should only have the width of one lot depth from the city’s easements running along South Street and stopping at Bruce Street.

I hereby request that all concerned South Side citizens talk to their council representatives and demand that the City of Franklin develop the following:

• A map depicting the South Street corridor.

• A map depicting all slum areas within the city.

• A table and list of figures showing substandard, unsafe, unsanitary and hazardous housing.

• A table and list of figures showing police service calls, loitering and open-air drug markets.

• A policy promoting housing rehabilitation and spot blight removal before it implements a redevelopment policy within any area within the city.

• A statement of residential and rental housing needs of families within the city based on bedroom size and affordability.

The City of Franklin, 2010 Comprehensive Plan, Chapter 2, page 12, Long Range Recommendations section states that the Planning Commission shall periodically consider the housing needs of the community, and the commission shall develop cooperative undertakings with the Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority to encourage home ownership.

The plan also states that the Planning Commission and City Council should periodically consider the housing needs of the community.

The Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority has developed a five-year and annual plan that accesses the city’s housing needs, and the Planning Commission is updating the housing section of the Comprehensive Plan.

To better facilitate the update of the City’s Comprehensive Plan Housing needs section of the Comprehensive Plan, I also ask all South Side citizens to demand that the City of Franklin Planning Commission hold a joint work session to discuss housing needs and housing policy with the Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the Franklin City Council.

With Jim Councill’s loss of the mayor’s seat and Raystine Johnson-Ashburn’s victory, the Southside of Franklin gained control of the majority of the council seats.

Mayor Johnson-Ashburn’s victory gives control of the entire city to the Southside. This power should be used to protect Southside property and uplift the Southside community.

The Southside council members finally have the power to stop the government from taking Southside homes and churches.

Mayor Johnson-Ashburn, Councilmembers Greg McLemore, Mona Murphy and Mary Hilliard, you should immediately take steps to protect your community.

THOMAS H. COUNCILL JR. is a City of Franklin Redevelopment Management Team Member and can be reached at 569-1536.