City of Franklin asks for public input on zoning ordinance

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Franklin City Hall

The city of Franklin held a public meeting at City Hall to provide citizens with information about the zoning ordinance and receive their input.

As the city of Franklin continues to tweak the zoning ordinance, city officials and contractors are reaching out to the public asking for input on how they want their city to look.

Brian Wright, founder and principal of Town Planning & Urban Design Collaborative, gave a presentation Thursday at City Hall to explain what the zoning ordinance is and how it will affect Franklin residents.

Wright explained that Envision Franklin, a document containing the vision for the city’s future, was adopted in 2017, establishing preferences for land use, development and design. However, the zoning ordinance had not been updated to coincide with this document.

“The zoning ordinance is what allows that vision to be implemented, and so this becomes the key element of that implementation process,” Wright said.

He ran through slides showing how dramatically the zoning ordinance can change a community, saying it can produce vibrant buildings or bland house fronts, character-filled park land or left-over open space. Wright explained that many residents are vocal about their desire for more open space, and proper zoning is important in bringing this wish to life.

“When you start talking about zoning or changes to things or a development project comes out, people always start talking about — if there’s nothing else that they know about it — ‘We want more open space,’” Wright said. “That’s sort of the extent of the discussion. So, we work in communities where they’ve worked for years, and they require developers to put these massive percentages of open space in a new development, and they think that they’ve really accomplished something because that percentage number is high. … But, what happens is … open space often is sort of whatever is left over.”

He said, because of this, it’s important to specify how citizens want their open space to look within the zoning ordinance.

From information gathered from previous public meetings, the city gleaned that residents like features such as pedestrian environments, outdoor seating and vibrant streetscapes — not parking lots in front of buildings or developments that cater specifically to car-travel.

Preferences like these are being worked into the new document, and planners have already made some changes to make the ordinance more accessible to both residents and developers, such as reducing the number of overlay districts and improving usability.

Wright explained that the city is looking to adopt changes to the zoning ordinance in the spring of 2020, so officials are looking for public input up until that time and are providing numerous opportunities for citizens to get involved. He said planners hope to include options for many different lifestyles throughout the city and capture Franklin’s character, and community involvement can help make that happen.

“One of the things that I find so often is people look at something, … and they go, ‘Who would want to live like that? Who wants to be able to reach out and give their neighbor a high-five out the window? That’s not for me. I like some land,’” Wright said. “You’ve got that, and somebody who doesn’t want all that to mow and doesn’t have dogs and likes to high-five their neighbor has this other thing.

"We want to make sure, even if it’s not our preference for something, that we haven’t precluded everybody else from being able to do something else.”

Franklin citizens can drop in during the Planning and Sustainability Department’s open office hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sept. 20 and keep an eye out for more public meetings in the fall to help shape the zoning ordinance.

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