Planning commission recommends rezoning for Franklin property

Published 12:23 pm Friday, March 1, 2013


FRANKLIN—The Franklin Planning Commission voted 6-1 Thursday to recommend rezoning 63 acres on South Street at the Route 58 Bypass for the possible development of motels, convenience stores, other retail or light industry.

Planning Commission Chairman Daniel Peak believes the rezoning could create jobs.

“We are being asked to be proactive for the city and the citizens,” Peak said. “This is the right thing to do.”

Voting against was Commissioner Carolyn Williams.

“I live in that area,” Williams said. “I am concerned about what businesses would go in this property. I know there are a lot of seniors in that area, and they deserve to know as well.”

Mid-Atlantic Communities has an agreement to sell the property to John Janson of South Hill. Potential development has been discussed but nothing has been made public.

Donald Goodwin, director of community development for the city, spoke on Janson’s behalf.

“The rezoning does speak to one of the goals of the comprehensive plan as it promotes development around (the) 58 interchanges,” Goodwin said. “As it abuts to the Pretlow Industrial Park, it offers the possibility of a connector road. Which could assist future development there.”

With over 30,000 vehicles traveling Route 58 daily, the highway is a gateway to Hampton Roads and the Mid-Atlantic region, said Amanda Jarratt, president and chief executive officer for Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc.

“(Route) 58 is a key asset that we have not marketed,” Jarratt said. “That is not a criticism; it is something we have to improve on, and we are taking proactive steps to remove barriers for economic planning to be competitive in this day and time with surrounding cities like Suffolk and Emporia.”

Thomas Councill of Franklin was the only person to publicly oppose the rezoning.

“I ask that the commission delay action on this project,” Councill said. “I am concerned about the homeowners and small minority-owned businesses located in the same area. I haven’t seen anyone from the Southside speak and they would have to live with the impact. I would like to give those residents a chance to speak on this.”

Councill feels that putting commercial zones close to homes devalues the properties.

The 63 acres once targeted for a 149-lot housing development in 2010 became part of the Pretlow Enterprise Zone. The designation provides developers with state and local incentives.

“This property is grandfathered for houses,” said Lamont Myers, manager of property for Mid-Atlantic Communities. “(The rezoning) is a better use of the property. The only way to raise property values is to create demand for the property, and you do that with job creation. People need to work to afford a home.”

The property values in Franklin have been going in the wrong direction for some time, said Dan Howe, speaking as a city resident and not as executive director of the Downtown Franklin Association.

“We don’t have enough ideal commercial property,” Howe said. “Anything we can do to draw people off of 58 will benefit the area and have the opportunity to bring them back and visit elsewhere in the city.”

Councill would like to see anyone who develops provide something to the city.

“I am all for jobs,” he said. “If it is a good and viable project, they should be able to proffer something. The Parks & Rec. Department needs new facilities and our schools are in need.”

The planning commission also voted 7-0 to change a sign ordinance to allow businesses with five acres within 500 feet of Route 58 to put up a sign no taller that 190 feet as long as it is a minimum of 200 feet from a residential property line.