After a proposed residential community near Franklin’s historic Gentry’s Farm elicited the wrath of neighbors and residents, city leaders went back to the drawing board to discuss a road that would make development possible.
Brentwood firm CPS Land owns the contract to develop 154 single-family attached and detached homes at 841 Old Charlotte Pike, a property of about 60 acres adjacent to Gentry’s Farm.
When it was revealed that a connector road originally identified in the city’s 2016 major thoroughfare plan would need to be constructed for the project, objections arose from neighbors and aldermen.
By Tuesday, a Facebook group named “Protect Gentry Farm & Franklin's Historic Charlotte Pike East" had gained about 3,400 members.
During Tuesday’s Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, city leaders expressed concern over the road, wondering if it would encourage more traffic and high density in an area of Franklin renowned for its peaceful nature.
In the new plan, the proposed road would connect Del Rio Pike with New Highway 96 West, cutting through the development site and the Short family property and edging around Gentry’s Farm. Both properties are century farms, a designation given to a property owned by a single family for 100 years or more.
In evaluating the road, Alderman Ann Petersen noted the original price tag of $13 million from the city’s 2016 plan, a number that will likely be greater in the present day.
Assistant City Administrator Vernon Gerth said the city has worked with the Gentrys and Shorts to find an acceptable road alignment to help move traffic in the area.
Both families, he said, agree the new road is better than the prior one proposed, though the Shorts have a lot of questions.
Scott Gentry, the son of Franklin resident Coach Jimmy Gentry, said he was concerned not just about his family farm, but also the whole western basin.
“I think we need to look at making a special recommendation for this area with much, much less density,” he said. “If that’s true, we don’t need the road at all.”
David Short, speaking for the Short family, asked the board to look at the development carefully before making a decision.
“We have through talks with the developer and the engineers, have come up with a solution that would less impact our property, but it still impacts us,” he said.
Short asked for his family and other neighbors to be included in ongoing discussions of the road.
Another neighbor, Bill Barkley, said the connector road is "begging the question of density." He asked the city for a review of Envision Franklin.
“With all the changes that are happening, I just think that you could look at this, stop, maybe pause everything and say, ‘Do we really need this connector road?’” he said.
Aldermen were wary of the road’s potential development but said they would support the most recent iteration if one had to be chosen.
Ward 1 Alderman Bev Burger acknowledged a property owner’s right to sell and develop their land, but cautioned against overdevelopment in the area.
She referred to a book called “Rural By Design,” suggesting the city make sure to develop projects appropriate to the area’s nature.
“I think we need to go back to the drawing board,” she said.
“I would love to see not any road development at all through here,” Ward 4 Alderman Margaret Martin said. “I just think this land is so pristine, and once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
“I want the road to disappear altogether,” agreed Alderman Brandy Blanton.
“If a road has to be built, the yellow route is the best, in all likelihood,” Ward 2 Alderman Dana McClendon said. “I’m not a big fan of building any roads right here anytime soon.”