Downtown Franklin happy to get mixed use zoning

Published 9:19 pm Friday, March 6, 2015

Despite concerns about added fees and an expansion of the historic district, the residents at the Franklin Planning Commission’s public hearing on the comprehensive plan did appreciate the effort that had been done over the past three years.

“I just want to commend you on the work,” Downtown Franklin Association Executive Director Dan Howe told the commission. “I think you have a lot of good visions, a lot of good plans.”

Howe specifically liked rezoning the downtown district to mixed zoning, which would allow for living spaces as well as commercial on Main Street and many of the other “city center” roads.

“I can’t say that this has not taken too long to get this to happen,” Howe said with a laugh. “I’m not going to go into the struggles, but it’s a good plan. There are not many positive downtown rehabilitation efforts in this country that do not have mixed use on properties.”

As for Community Development Block Grants, “Downtown Dan” put his seal of approval on seeking those out. This is especially the case considering the tourism that the commission and council are hoping to attract. Howe said a revitalized downtown could be a great resource for tourism.

“Downtown needs reassessment, from feasibility grants, facade grants and downtown streetscaping,” he said. “It is about the time that we could put on another coat of paint, and do whatever it takes to make downtown very appealing, not only for citizens, but for others that come to visit.”

More along the line of tourism, Howe also appreciated the idea of adding trails along the Blackwater River.

“Waynesboro has a great green space trail that came along through the same thinking,” he said. “It is something that could make the community not only a destination point, but it also would improve our quality of life.

“We’ve got a lot of water around us, we may as well make it our friend.”

The last thing Howe touched on concerned the Farmer’s Market downtown.

“A lot of people think the Farmer’s Market is done, but it is not,” he said. “We are basically in phase I, and there are landscaping and streetscaping efforts intended to make it a nice facility.

“We spent $100,000 creating it, and we spent another $175,000 constructing the bathroom at Barrett’s Landing. Both can be used as leverage to proceed with grant funding. To the best of my knowledge, $275,000 is a good way to get leverage on grants.”

Mary Christy Morris of Mackan’s Office Supply & Printing also appreciated the efforts centering on downtown, as an area business owner.

“On mixed use, we definitely need to do something,” she said. “From the research I have done on revitalization, it’s just amazing what they are able to do by simply allowing that to happen. I thank you all for putting that in.”

Franklin-Southampton Economic Development Inc. President and CEO Amanda Jarratt also wanted to voice her support for the initiatives that would promote reinvestment and revitalization in the downtown area.

“The Franklin-Southampton economy continues to improve, and it is imperative that we provide the downtown business and property owners tools to reinvest in Main Street,” she said. “We look forward to continuing to be a partner with the City and downtown Franklin.”

The Franklin Planning Commission approved the comprehensive plan 5-1, with vice chair Lawyer A. Artis Jr. absent and R.W. “Bobby” Tyler voting nay.