By Pam Horne, Managing Editor
Two words may define Franklin leaders’ greatest challenge in 2014—congestion and connectivity.
Alderman spent more than half of their deliberation time this week on traffic and road project priorities, closing out their board meeting Tuesday night with a tie vote on who should bear the financial burden of a traffic signal in Cool Springs.
Mayor Ken Moore cast the deciding vote in favor of approving an impact fee offset request by a developer looking to have other developments share in the total cost of a future signal at Cool Springs Boulevard and Windcross Court.
Franklin has a policy that allows developers to request offsets from calculated impact fees—a taxing mechanism the city implemented and state legislature approved two decades ago to help pay for growth.
The apartment complex, according to developer Embrey Partners of San Antonio, Texas, will generate four percent of the total traffic on Windcross Court and Cool Springs Boulevard.
“We were requesting a 70 percent offset,” said Brad Knolle, Embry’s senior vice president of development. He said he would have preferred that more of the signal’s cost be shared among future development, but accepted the decision.
“It’s fair,” Knolle said.
Artessa, a 250-unit apartment site located between Cool Springs and Jordan Road, has had its challenges. Neighbors complained initially about traffic concerns when the Board voted last November to rezone the property.
Aldermen Dana McClendon, Clyde Barnhill, Mike Skinner and Margaret Martin opposed giving Embrey any offset.
Aldermen Ann Petersen, Pearl Bransford, Brandy Blanton and Beverly Burger supported approval of fifty percent of Embrey’s original request, which came to nearly $200,000.
Moore cast the deciding vote.
Skinner was adamant that the offset should not take place.
“The difference is the money that we will take out of other projects throughout the city. That’s what impact fees are for. They are not just for the project nearest the development.”
In other business, a shift in priorities for the city’s Capital Investment Program, which will require a vote of the board, had aldermen somewhat frustrated Tuesday night.
At issue is whether to act quickly on an opportunity to continue constructing the final extension of South Carothers Parkway ahead of the city’s original timetable.
City Administrator Eric Stuckey presented the option just as the board had nearly finalized a long list of projects, including Columbia Avenue improvements from Downs Boulevard to Mack Hatcher Parkway and Streetscape improvements from First Avenue to Harpeth Industrial Court.
Two fire stations that will serve the Westhaven area, as well as the Berry Farms and Ladd Park areas were placed as high priorities and will be funded with Facility Tax revenues of $6.4 million.
Public restrooms at Harlinsdale Farms and design services for a Harpeth River Walk will come from Hotel/Motel Tax revenues at $310,000.
But a last minute opportunity presented caused consternation among board members.
“We have a unique opportunity to complete (South Carothers Parkway extension) because of an existing (road construction) contract. We could change order that and get that done in twelve months. It also times out well with the I-65 project completion,” Stuckey told the board.
“The window for that decision is really within the next two months.
“When you look at the kind of traffic you could be pushing through that neighborhood road it is not really a good situation,” Stuckey said of Ladd Park.
He said he believes the city has enough financial capacity to handle the $2.85 million project through general obligation bond issuance.
Alderman Martin voiced her frustration with the change of plans, pointing to other projects that are being put on hold that the city has already committed design funds to create such as Franklin Road Streetscape.
“I think we need to at least finish the (Franklin Road) design so we will be shovel ready,” Martin said.
Burger suggested getting the public’s input in a more deliberate way.
“We talked about taking this out to the public and getting input from people…We need to ask them…we could present (the list) and ask ‘Do they want a tax raise to fund the capital projects…because if they don’t want that we need to go in a different direction.”
Posted on: 2/13/2014