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Board considers mix of music events in downtown, Harlinsdale

Businesses wanting to capitalize on using downtown Franklin for regular outdoor musical events received a less than warm reception this week from a few nearby residents and some members of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
Mellow Mushroom’s proposal to expand the footprint of its outdoor music event was scaled back after city staff and aldermen voiced objections.
While there have been no reported public safety incidents, the organizers of an evening concert series scheduled for the last Saturday of the month continuously from March to October, there was hesitancy to approve the long-term event’s expansion near the Public Square.
The item, first discussed during the work session, was later approved during the Board’s regular meeting with the decision to hold up on expansion.
“That was just an idea,” Joey Clark, the restaurant’s regional manager told aldermen Tuesday, offering to drop a street closure request that would have kept motorists off the a portion of the Public Square during the events.
“We were just trying to make it safer for the public,” Clark said.
Last year, the event drew hundreds of patrons to Mellow Mushroom, and a new music theme set to launch next month may draw even more.
The Beatles tribute band “Sixty Four” has a strong following, said Wendy Sherman, who represents the musicians. 
Sherman emphasized to board members that band members would not want to do anything that caused a safety issue or became a nuisance.
The plan calls for parking in the southeast quadrant of the square to be blocked for overflow from the concert, but the road closure request was denied.
City Administrator Eric Stuckey said staff has worked with the business to establish a more contained area using barrier cones to designate event limits.
“The police department has recommended that the applicant hire three off-duty officers,” Stuckey said. “They are advising us to have a third because of the number of people we are seeing.”
But residents living within two blocks of the Public Square voiced concerns about noise, traffic and the long-term impact to other patrons of downtown.
John Morris, of Third Avenue, South, said  “my concern is the benefit accrued to such a small group. I’m not sure the imposition (to residents) is warranted.”
Ernie Bacon, of Fourth Avenue South, spoke at length about the overall vision for the downtown-area, as it becomes more and more entertainment oriented.
“The seemingly escalation and proliferation of private, non-profit ventures that impact our streets…is becoming a nuisance.”
“I don’t think it is sound policy to approve an application for multiple events,” Bacon said of Mellow Mushrooms request through October.
After emphasizing that he is not against festivals and parades sponsored by non-profits, such as the Veterans Day celebration or events organized by the Heritage Foundation’s Downtown Franklin Association, Bacon said the future of the area should be examined closer.
“With our success comes responsibility to not let the success become excessive.”
He asked aldermen to be sensitive to the downtown area as a place where people “live, work and worship” as well as come for entertainment.
Bacon said he was speaking as a private resident and his comments did not represent the Downtown Neighborhood Association.
Clark later told the board Mellow Mushroom would not seek any expansion of the event. “We can definitely manage with what we have now,” he said, adding that the concert series “brings a lot of revenue to the area.”
“I think the economic development impact articulated is significant,” said At-large Alderman Pearl Bransford.
At-large Alderman Brandy Blanton added “I understand both sides of the issue….I do think having a series (of events) makes it harder for people to swallow.”
Ultimately, the board voted unanimously to allow the monthly event with the same limitations for public space the restaurant has had in the past.
May 31 music festival
Aldermen also heard from Americana Music Association’s executive director Jed Hilly about plans for a one-day ticketed music festival set for May 31 at the Park at Harlinsdale. 
The “America Cross Country Lines” event is expected to draw 4,000 to 5,000 people.
Hilly, a former Sony music executive, who relocated the AMA headquarters from Nashville to the Factory of Franklin recently, is working with City Parks Director Lisa Clayton to meet city event requirements.
Five bands, including a possible appearance by Nancy Griffith, will be featured throughout the day beginning at noon Saturday with entertainment ending at midnight Sunday.
AMA advocates for a national grassroots push to bring purely Americana music—from blues to rock ‘n roll—to the forefront.
Hilly said last night that artists like longtime Franklin resident Allison Krauss share the association’s vision.
“Our mission is to advocate for authentic American music,” Hilly said of the music he described as being indigenous to the region from Nashville to New Orleans from the Natchez Trace to Muscle Shoals, Ala.
“There’s a large segment of the community that believes there are other ways to produce festivals.” 
Since Franklin resident and south central Kentucky native Brad Kelly acquired the Factory at Franklin last year from Franklin businessman Calvin Lehew, the venue has become focused on increasing its value as a music and entertainment destination.
The AMA has opened an office there, and founders of Studio Tenn recently announced plans to move the theatre company’s plays and musicals for the 2014-2015 performance season to the Factory.
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Posted on: 2/27/2014


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