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Del Webb voted down; Land Use Plan questioned

Dozens of citizens opposed to the Del Webb development gathered to hear public discussions at the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting Tuesday.  PHOTO BY CAROLE ROBINSON

The fate of the construction of a Del Webb development in Franklin came to a grinding halt last night as the Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously voted to stop staff research efforts on the project and the annexation process.
About twenty citizens voiced their opposition to the proposed project on Del Rio Pike, while dozens of others were seated and standing throughout the filled boardroom. Those opposed showed their solidarity by wearing the color red—a nod to the “Say No to Del Webb” citizen movement. 
“Not the right time, not the right place, not the right development,” was a phrase repeated by residents during the public hearing.
“I don’t want to waste further time with a Plan of Service but look immediately at the Land Use Plan,” Beverly Burger, Ward 1 said. The city staff presented a Plan of Service for the development to BOMA at a work session last month.
“Franklin has made some mistakes and approved developments before we could support infrastructure. This seems like one of those projects,” Mike Skinner, Ward 3, said.
However, during discussions some aldermen introduced the benefit of continued research on the Plan of Service.
“Procedurally, I am concerned about shutting down dialogue and planning,” Alderman Dana McLendon, Ward 2, said. Although, he stated that he was not committed to voting for the project, he added that if staff were to continue research, a comprehensive assessment of information could be gained. “I think that’s valuable and worth knowing.”
The possibility of the Del Webb project has raised pertinent questions about how the city will respond to other such developments proposed in the future, especially relating to the city’s Land Use Plan.
“This is not about Del Webb,” Burger said. “The Land Use Plan has not been looked at since 2006. We have to look at the Urban Growth Boundaries and do some work and research.”
Residents have spoken out for months about their opposition to the annexation of 400-acres of the Rogers Farm for the project that would bring about 800 homes to about 200-acres with remaining acreage used as open space. 
Also. residents have repeated their concerns about increased traffic on already dangerous, highly trafficked rural roads as well as the lack of proper infrastructure.
However, the desire to preserve the larger rural area, that encompasses the city’s Urban Growth Boundaries and the unincorporated area of the county, has been the driving force of resident opposition. Burger recently called the area “Franklin’s Natchez Trace.”
Even Williamson County officials, including County Mayor Rogers Anderson and Commissioner Mary Brockman, District 9 spoke out against the development during the public hearing Tuesday.
“Williamson County has something special. It’s the direct result of the six cities involved,” Anderson said. “I have nothing against Del Webb. This is the wrong plan for this development. Mack Hatcher is not going to be there … The County can help, if you want to form a Task Force to plan the area. It can be a win for all of us—the city and the county as we continue to grow.” 
Representatives from the PulteGroup, including Bruce Sloan, Tennessee President for PulteGroup, and a former Williamson County resident now living in a Del Webb development in Mount Juliet also addressed BOMA.
“I thought that Del Webb fit really well. Our company has a long history of complying with city plans and policies and meeting the city’s architectural guidelines,” Sloan said during discussion. “We are willing to work through the process, listen, find solutions and meet the needs of the people.” 
However, ultimately aldermen voted in agreement to stop the Plan of Service in order to save the city time and resources.
Cindy Bhasvar, who has led the movement “Say No to Del Webb” since April, said that residents gained a victory, but she added that she agreed with aldermen that more work has to be done on the issue. 
“Our goal is now to have the City Land Use Plan revisited. It’s an excellent victory, but someone will want to come in and do it [develop the land] again,” Bhavsar said after the meeting.

Posted on: 12/11/2013


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