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County residents organize to oppose development

Before spring, Whitehall Farms resident Cindy Bhavsar never expected to spend her days researching city of Franklin planning and development procedures, rules and regulations—infrastructure, zoning, and traffic counts. Now, she recites those procedures.

Cindy Bhavsar led the “Say No to Del Webb” informational meeting Nov. 5 at the Williamson County Administrative Complex. About 70 residents attended the meeting to educate themselves about the Del Webb development and organize to fight against it. Kerri Bartlett

When talk of preliminary plans for a 780-unit Del Webb active senior living development began circulating, Bhavsar became determined to fight against what she deems a high-density development that threatens the quiet, pastoral way of life in one of the most rural areas of Franklin. 
“This is bigger than just Del Webb. It threatens our ‘town and country’ lifestyle that makes Franklin so special,” Bhavsar said. 
Bhavsar’s research came to a head Tuesday night as about 70 residents from the Cotton Lane and Del Rio Pike area filed into the Williamson County Administrative Complex Auditorium for a “Say No to Del Webb” informational meeting. About 1,000 residents have signed the “Say No to Del Webb” online petition found on the group’s Facebook Page.
County Mayor Rogers Anderson, a resident of Whitehall Farms, introduced Bhavsar and praised her efforts in educating herself and citizens about the project. Bhavsar led the meeting and passed out informational sheets to citizens about the project.
“We moved here because of the open space and quiet way of life,” Bhavsar said.
Residents discussed concerns about lack of infrastructure support, increased traffic, increased pollution to the Harpeth River and historical preservation compromised. 
The privately-owned historic residence named Meeting of the Waters, which is listed on the National Register of Properties, is located about a half-mile from the Del Rio Pike project.
The home’s owner Joe Cashia was in attendance Tuesday night.
The 400-acre site proposed for the Del Webb development is located in the county but falls within the city’s Urban Growth Boundaries, which could allow for higher density development if city aldermen vote to approve an annexation request.
The developer, the PulteGroup, parent company of Del Webb, issued a request for annexation earlier this fall on behalf of the property owner Robert Rogers of Murfreesboro. 
As a result, city staff was directed to move forward with an initial first step meant to assist aldermen in their deliberations of the potential annexation. Assistant City Administrator Vernon Gerth will present a “Plan of Service,” Tuesday to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, outlining the city’s infrastructure response to the proposed development. 
Bruce Sloan, representing Pulte Group, said this week that the development could be beneficial to Franklin.
“Our population is over 55, mostly retired, vibrant and socially active. There’s nothing in Franklin that is meeting the needs of this consumer segment right now,” Sloan said.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, a little over ten percent of the population in Williamson County is over 65 years of age and growing according to county reports.
Sloan has been meeting with local residents and city officials since last May to try to better understand the issues of concern for all involved.
 “We respect the land and adjacent property. We try to take into consideration all things,” Sloan said.
“While we haven’t submitted official plans for the development, we have been meeting with neighbors, local officials and business leaders to share the benefits of having a Del Webb community that could meet the housing and lifestyle needs of the aging population and bring new revenue to the city,” Sloan said previously in a statement to the Herald
Sloan explained that the senior community is considered a “low impact” development because restrictive covenants only allow for residents who are 55 years and older.
Based on the company’s experience in other parts of the country, that variable translates to less traffic flow – 40 percent less than a regular family neighborhood of its size. 
Additionally, Sloan pointed out because of the older population demographic, there would not be the public financial obligation of educating more students. He believes that in and of itself offers some positive economic benefit to the community.
Sloan said that the development would bring about 1.8 persons per household with less than two cars on average. 
“Also, most of our residents will not be driving at peak traffic times. They won’t be driving to the city for work,” Sloan said. He added that the development would not add to area school populations or facility use such as parks and recreation because a private recreation facility will be available onsite.
However, Bhavsar argues that Del Rio Pike is already a heavily traveled, dangerous road in which traffic patterns cannot be estimated by car counts but by assessing additional circumstances such as the absence of shoulders, presence of bicyclists, school buses and other surrounding construction zones. 
This week, Sloan expressed Pulte’s intent to widen lanes and add turn lanes and bike lanes to accommodate traffic flow.
The group also expressed concern about the lack of infrastructure to support a neighborhood of Del Webb’s size and the significant cost to taxpayers for upgrade. 
Whitehall Farms is served by single-family septic systems. Residents are concerned that if the land were annexed, sewer pump lines would have to be installed for city connection. 
The location of a sewer pumping station now stands in the midst of controversy.
Tim Davidson, President of Whitehall Farms HOA, also expressed his concern about resident voices being heard. “I think that we need to start thinking about getting legal representation. Since we [Whitehall Farms and concerned residents] are located in the county, we don’t have city representation.”
Sloan previously reported that the size of development was decreased from an original plan, which did include the remaining property owned by Rogers. He said that about 200-acres on the north side of the property had been omitted from the plans.  
“This hasn’t even reached the city aldermen, yet. We haven’t heard their thoughts. I would like to wait and see where they stand on this issue first,” Bhavsar responded to Davidson’s suggestion. 
She encouraged the crowd to attend Tuesday night’s meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, which will include a presentation of the annexation request and accompanying service plan during the body’s work session. 

Posted on: 11/7/2013


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