Del Webb makes debut before BOMA
By Kerri Bartlett, Assistant Editor
Dressed in red attire as a symbolic gesture for the “Say No to Del Webb” cause, dozens of residents in opposition of the proposed residential development gathered to address the Board of Mayor and Aldermen during a workshop session held Tuesday night.
Jack Lance, resident of Del Rio Pike, expressed his concerns to BOMA about the possibility of increased traffic flow in the area if the Del Webb development came to fruition. He said that about 11 cars have crashed into neighbors’ fences, including his own, over the past year due to the winding road. Kerri Bartlett
After months of community opposition, west Franklin residents fighting against the development gathered to hear aldermen’s thoughts about the project, which hinges on an annexation request of more than 400 acres of property on Del Rio Pike.
“If Mack Hatcher were completed, if Del Rio had multiple lanes, sidewalks and bike lanes, I still would not vote for annexation,” Alderman Margaret Martin, Ward 4, said.
“We don’t need to develop this pristine land … There is not enough ink to print all of the emails that I have gotten. Everyone I’ve heard from doesn’t want this. There’s no point [in city staff] spending any more time or money on this project.”
Beverly Burger, Ward 1, said she agreed with Martin.
Although she received two requests advocating that she consider the project, Burger said she believes the development is not appropriate for the community.
“As a citizen of Franklin, I have made it a point to drive out there on occasion,” she said.
“That area is the Natchez Trace of Franklin. It is not the place for this development. The location is not appropriate.”
Del Webb, a developer that has branded active senior living communities across the nation, is owned by PulteGroup.
The proposed project would bring about 780 homes to 400-acres, which is currently owned by the Rogers Farm, located at 3021 Del Rio Pike. Some residents are concerned about increased traffic and unsafe roads, insufficient infrastructure, the devaluing of property and high-density “suburban sprawl” that would erode the surrounding scenic, historic landscape.
The property under consideration is a part of the Urban Growth Boundaries and potentially within the development jurisdiction of the city of Franklin.
At least five historic homes reside on Del Rio, including the 19th century Meeting of the Waters residence built in 1810 at the Harpeth River.
Bruce Sloan, Tennessee President for PulteGroup, submitted an annexation request to the city in September on behalf of property owner Robert Rogers of Murfreesboro.
In response to the annexation request, the city spent the last few months devising a Plan of Service, which was presented Tuesday night by Assistant City Administrator Vernon Gerth.
The plan outlined the standards of service that the city could provide such a community and suggested infrastructure improvements before construction could begin.
According to the plan, major improvements would include street widening in the area and a larger wastewater pumping station to accommodate the extra homes.
Additionally, there has been some preliminary discussion about the possibility of building a larger wastewater pump station that would accommodate the current Westhaven community and the proposed Del Webb community in one location to better plan for future needs.
However, that would require Del Webb representatives to obtain an easement to gain access through the Gentry Farm, located on New Highway 96 west.
The family weighed in on that scenario this week, choosing to submit a statement to BOMA that reflects the family’s disagreement with the proposed easement request.
Family representative Jase Gentry read from a letter Tuesday night that expressed his concern about future growth in Williamson County that could affect their eight-generation farm.
Gentry Farm provides a place where school children and adults can gather throughout the year to learn about farming tradition.
During the fall, the Gentry’s open their pumpkin patch and offer seasonal hayrides. A summer day camp for children operates there annually.
“This is a way that preserves our personal and historical heritage in Williamson County. [The development] could obliterate what makes Franklin and Williamson County special,” Gentry read from the letter Tuesday.
He said that the family opposed the development, sewer line and road installation, which “could be the demise of our family farm.”
“I encourage the city of Franklin to take a step back and reassess the city’s Urban Growth Boundary,” Gentry added.
He stated that the developer was under the assumption that the development fell within necessary guidelines of urban growth and that the city desired such development.
“The city of Franklin has been proactive in developing a growth plan for the city that avoids sprawl,” Bruce Sloan, Tennesse President of PulteGroup (developer), said in a statement after the meeting.
“We have been following that plan, and its guiding principles to develop a community that will be a smart use of the land, low impact on infrastructure and bring new revenues to the city. We have a long history as a responsible developer and are respectful of the annexation process.”
During the meeting, Sloan pointed out to BOMA that PulteGroup would bear the burden of road improvement costs and considered that action to be providing a service to the city.
“In the plan, it sounds as if we do not concur with staff recommendations. However, it is one of our main goals to improve safety of the roads … We thought we’d be able to provide the city a service to improve roads,” Sloan said.
Brandy Blanton, Alderman-At-Large, stated that although Del Webb is a well-conceived plan for the senior population, she doesn’t agree with the proposed location for development.
“This is a great product, but it doesn’t work [at Del Rio Pike]. The word for the land is bucolic. I have grown up in Williamson County since fifth grade and skipped school in the fields on Del Rio,” Blanton said.
“There are certain things that you want to remain – the view shed, farms and badminton in the backyard. It warms my heart that this issue brings out the people, whether wearing a red shirt or a blue tie. But we are stewards of the people, and we were elected to be your voice.”
The city will hold a public hearing on the issue Dec. 10. At that time, BOMA will have a chance to direct the city staff to move a step forward on the issue or vote against the annexation request altogether.
Posted on: 11/14/2013