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News Franklin approves affordable housing special use application

Fitch Development Group is one step closer to establishing an affordable housing complex in Franklin, as Aldermen unanimously approved a special use permit application for the project at last Monday’s meeting.

Alderman Jerry Evans was absent from the meeting due to medical reasons.

Main Street Program Director Linda Schlott explains to aldermen the importance of a street closure draft. It was not approved, but did stress the need for street-festival requirements.Fitch Development Group is one step closer to establishing an affordable housing complex in Franklin, as Aldermen unanimously approved a special use permit application for the project at last Monday’s meeting.

Alderman Jerry Evans was absent from the meeting due to medical reasons.

The permit is for a 5.57 acre parcel of land located at the corner of Allman Drive and Sawmill Village Lane, across the street from the Microtel Inn. The development group is seeking to construct three apartment buildings and a community building on the site, with units of varying sizes and floor plans, including one-, twoand three-bedroom apartments.

The approval gave the firm the go-ahead to apply for a low income tax credit which would make the proposed 52 unit apartment complex available to residents who earn $15-34,000 a year. Developers will find out in August if they met the criteria for the tax credit application, as administered by the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency (NCHFA).

The NCHFA, a self-supporting agency, seeks to establish affordable housing for North Carolinians whose needs are not met by the current market.

“Franklin, and Macon County, have a need for affordable housing,” said project developer Paul Fitch at the meeting. He cited a market study conducted last year which recommended that 450 affordable housing units be built within city limits. Fitch said that as the price of houses in the market have increased in recent years, a lot of young professionals with little capital are seldom are able to afford homes for sale.

“I am going to succeed one way or the other,” Fitch said, confident in seeing the project come to fruition. “I will beat the state because this is an open book exam this time. I think it’s an excellent site and I hope to get your consideration for this site.”

Town Planner Michael Grubermann said that not only would the development have to comply with county and town housing codes, it would have to adhere to construction codes set up by the NCHFA. In addition, Grubermann added there are short travel distances to the Georgia Road, a major thoroughfare, something required by the tax credit stipulations.

Grubermann explained that currently there are no variances for the development, but he added that the Planning Board will certify compliance with the Unified Development Ordinance, before a land development permit is issued for the project’s construction, something required before a building permit can be issued to the developer.

“The development, I think, it is well done,” said Grubermann. “Because of the additional requirements of the HFA process in North Carolina, I think we’ll have a cut above the management here because of this. It’s not as a get-away cheap project. While the rents are inexpensive, that’s because of the tax credits. They’re applicable to this property. Not because of short cuts taken in construction. I think that this project would serve the needs of the community.”

Aldermen Joyce Handley and “Sissy” Pattillo both said that they thought the project was necessary. “A lot of thought was put into it,” remarked Handley.

Construction of the project would begin until Spring 2012, Grubermann estimated.

During the public comment period for the Fitch complex, Franklin resident Bob Litten thanked the board for its support in the development of the veteran’s memorial. He said that he was not against the construction of the project, as he supports construction, but was concerned with the placement of it, citing water run off problems being an issue in the area.

Litten owns an adjacent piece of property off of Allman Drive. “Engineering needs to be done. I don’t believe personally that what they’ve done there now is going to be satisfactory if we have another overabundance of water runoff in this project.”

“You’re absolutely right, you need to be protected,” said Fitch, promising that the development firm would do all that it could to prevent water runoff issues from becoming a problem.

Downtown street closure requirements

As downtown festivals throughout the years have become more popular in Franklin, street closures for the events have also become more prevalent, according to Main Street Program director Linda Schlott. Shutting down the streets, she explained, and redirecting traffic for certain events like Pumpkinfest and the Folk Festival have proven to buoy attraction as well as keep festival goers safer from passing automobiles.

With that in mind, Schlott met with police chief Terry Bradley, Aldermen Pattillo and Handley, as well as Town Planner Michael Grubermann on Jan. 19 to establish guidelines for future street closings. The meeting referred to the closures of Phillips, Iotla and Main Streets at last year’s Pumpkinfest, which Schlott regarded as a notable success for downtown festivals.

“With the success of Pumpkinfest and the closing of the streets we saw some problems, so we’re addressing those problems in the draft,” said Schlott at the meeting.

“If a festival is to have a parade with vehicles, then Main Street cannot be closed due to safety reasons,” the draft began. In the event that Main Street is closed, the draft recommended, among other things, that it be closed from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. the day of the festival, that it be filled with people from Town Hall to Macon Bank with either activities or vendors and that all vendors enter the site from side streets.

The draft also recommended Phillips, Iotla and Stewart Streets be closed depending on festival needs.

If the draft, or a variant of it, were to be drafted, Schlott told aldermen that it would be issued to future festival organizers for their consideration.

“I would like to see some type of qualification that people have to meet when we determine what type of festivals or events are going to qualify for closing a street,” Scott said, adding that his only concern was the closing of Main Street, as it was a main roadway.

The board took no action on adopting the draft, however it did approve the closure of Iotla Street for the April Fool’s Trail Days event.

Only Taste of Scotland, Folk Festival and Pumpkinfest would require Main Street to be closed. “The rest of the street closings are pretty normal,” said Schlott.

Official surplus of old Town Hall building

Town manager Sam Greenwood proposed that the town officially surplus it’s old Town Hall property on 188 West Main Street. The property was appraised in August of 2008 at $1.25 million. The estimated marketing period in the appraisal summary was 24-36 set at months.

Greenwood said that it would not only “behoove the town” to ready the property for resale, but also suggested having a negotiable finder’s fee for potential vendees of no more than 5 percent. Aldermen voted unanimously to approve the proposal.

Sign ordinance revised for flexibility

Aldermen voted unanimously to approve changes to Franklin’s sign ordinance recommended by the Planning Board. The changes, in response to local business concerns, would allow for more signage use.

As part of last year’s controversial special use permit application for a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter, developers of the project sought to change their free standing signage as part of their application. It was decided at that meeting that upon approving the Supercenter’s signage request, the planning board would look into different signage size arrangements.

Since that hearing, Grubermann indicated that the Planning Board had met and concluded to propose the ordinance revision.

The first recommendation therein will allow for directional signage to be placed on outside fences that, separate from free-standing signs in industrial zones, which will indicated to truckers where deliveries or pick-ups will be made early on.

The second recommendation will allow a sliding square footage scale for free-standing signs based on the number of units in a particular shopping center. Just one store is now allowed a maximum of 50 square feet of signage. Each additional store will allow for an additional 15 square feet, and centers with eight businesses or more will allow for a maximum of 150 square feet of signage.

As alderman Handley remarked that some businesses are worried that they will have to change their signs due to the ordinance, to which Grubermann said that some may have to. Business signs posted before last year’s ordinance revision would be grandfathered in, he added.

Third on the list is the increase of allowable signage size in industrial zones. The increase, as the revision notes, would provide easier identification and signage legibility for truckers making deliveries or pick-ups.

Finally, the revision called for a reduction in the time that an electronic message stays of an electronic sign. “Originally when it was produced, there was a ten minute time limit before you should change the sign,” explained Grubermann. “Most of those signs that we already had in town were operating on a six second time limit,” he said, citing Atlanta as having such signage change along the expressway. The Planning Board agreed to lower the time limit from ten minutes to ten seconds.

“There was a lot of confusion in what we were dealing with,” explained Grubermann of the initial process of revising the ordinance. “This was a means of being able to pick out and straighten out a few things that were wrong.

Annexation revision dries out previous policy

Aldermen unanimously approved a policy that would prohibit local businesses outside of the town’s Extraterritorial Jurisdiction from receiving annexation for the sole purpose of selling alcohol. The policy provides that the Town of Franklin will review and consider annexation petitions on an individual basis.

Businesses outside of the ETJ will be considered if they demonstrate compliance with town development and signage ordinances.

Ridgecrest Exxon, a business which is currently seeking annexation from the town, would be effected by the policy.

According to Ridgecrest Attorney Orville Coward, the board remains obliged to hold a public hearing for the store. “I do not think you can stop the public hearing from being set, by adopting a policy in mid-stream,” Coward told aldermen.

The town board voted to grant that public hearing regarding the gas station’s annexation at their March 7th meeting.





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