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Public hearing pits safety against roadside commerce

The Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting Tuesday night culminated in a parade of public comments on the subject of an ordinance that would prohibit roadside solicitations, including those by homeless vendors who sell The Contributor newspaper to motorists.

Thirteen of the 18 individuals who spoke during the public hearing voiced opposition to the ordinance that would ban any financial transaction or fundraising between a pedestrian and a person inside a vehicle on a city street. The issue has become a hot topic in Williamson County of late. Brentwood passed a similar law last year over the objections of homeless advocates, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the publisher of the Nashville-based newspaper The Contributor, which is sold exclusively by homeless people.

Although its supporters consider Franklin's proposed law to address a public safety issue, people on both sides of the issue at times debated it as a referendum on homelessness.

“I'm in opposition to the ordinance because I've worked with the homeless population,” said Bennie Harris, the first person to address BOMA during the public hearing. “We need to think about them and the community that otherwise wouldn't have an opportunity to help themselves.”

Mayor Dr. Ken Moore banged his gavel to restore order as many in the audience applauded the sentiment.

“It's dangerous,” said Charlie Monks, the first to speak in support of the measure. “All of a sudden you have an individual standing in traffic. [But] we do need to come together for these people to sell their goods. We need to support these people.”

Some quoted Bible verses that emphasize the importance of caring for society's less fortunate; others argued that vendors sometimes damage the landscaping in public right-of-ways. 

The last two to speak at the public hearing were school-aged girls, each opposed to the ordinance.

“I know that Franklin is a community that wants to be kind and compassionate,” said Ella McKelvey.

“The city of Franklin is one of the most conservative Christian communities in the country, and we're not going to let the homeless sell newspapers? Think about that,” said Callie McKelvey.

Ward 1 Alderman Beverly Burger, who supports the ordinance, stepped from behind the legislative body's dais to read comments from some of her constituents who were not at Tuesday night's meeting. All of the comments were in support of the measure, Burger said, and some were from individuals who feared being labeled as “against the homeless, which is not what we're doing.”

Burger read several letters aloud, which referenced safety issues brought about by vendors conducting business with motorists, damage to public landscaping, and concerns that intersections may become new frontiers for cottage-industry commerce should lawmakers not intercede.

“Will we soon see Girl Scouts selling their cookies in the streets?” Burger read. “What prevents them?”

BOMA will vote on the ordinance for the second and final time Feb. 12. The measure previously unanimously passed the body on Dec. 12.

Rezone 711 Hillsboro Road

The applicant for an ordinance that would rezone the property at 711 Hillsboro Road from Low Residential District (R-1) to High Residential District (R-3) withdrew his request after a series of deferrals in recent months. Loy and Cathy Hardcastle, who own the 0.94-acre near Franklin High School, had planned to subdivide the lot the they purchased in 2011 and build a home similar in style and size to others in the neighborhood. But being less than one acre in size, the lot would have to be rezoned to accommodate the second structure that would stand on what currently appears as a vacant lot between two houses. The Planning Commission recommended BOMA deny the request. The measure has been deferred month after month since passing BOMA on its first reading last July by a 5-2 margin.

“My understanding is that [the applicants] will come back with a different proposal,” said City Administrator Eric Stuckey to the Williamson Herald.

Long Lane overpass

The aldermen agreed 7-1 to spend $325,000 on the design of the Long Lane Bridge that would span I-65 near Goose Creek Bypass. While BOMA has no immediate plans to build the bridge, the Tennessee Department of Transportation has agreed to fund and install the piers that would support the bridge provided the city agree in principle “to fund the project within the next several years.”

“At some point in time, it's going to need to be built,” said At-large Alderman Clyde Barnhill.

City planners expect the area south of Highway 96 along the I-65 corridor to experience significant residential growth in upcoming years.

“You're going to need connectivity. I don't know when, but this is a window of opportunity,” Stuckey said. “And it will help it be a much more compatible project when the time comes.”

At-large Alderman Ann Petersen cast the lone dissenting vote.

Schedule Change

BOMA voted 5-3 to cancel its regular meeting July 9, and schedule a special meeting for July 23. The mayor said the change allows the aldermen “to take a little break.”

Barnhill voted against the measure, saying the administrative paperwork necessary to make the change combined with the expense to publicize it are not worth the gain. Ward 3 Alderman Michael Skinner and Petersen cast the other two “no” votes.


Posted on: 1/23/2013


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