Group proposes equine arena for Harlinsdale Park
By Skip Anderson, Managing Editor
A Franklin-based non-profit floated a test balloon over the city’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen April 9 to gauge its interest in partnering to bring a multipurpose equestrian arena to the Park at Harlinsdale Farm.
Located on Franklin Road about a mile northeast of the town square, Harlinsdale Farm was formerly a walking horse breeding farm. Today, it is a 200-acre public park listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The development would include a fenced-in enclosure of a 300-foot by 100-foot field, grass-berm seating for several hundreds on tiered grass knolls and a 24-horse stable. No horses would be housed on site overnight, and the facility would not be illuminated for nighttime use.
Operating under the auspices of the non-profit organization Franklin Tomorrow, Friends of Franklin Parks, LLC, asked BOMA for its informal support during the body’s working session. Dr. Monty McInturff, DVM, president of Friends of Franklin Parks’ board of governors, said the purpose of the presentation was to elicit an informal nod from BOMA, indicating that the city’s legislative body does not outright oppose the idea on principle.
While BOMA did indicate an interest in the partnership, it also had questions about the financing for the project, oversight of future revenue streams and day-to-day upkeep of the proposed facilities.
“Who is responsible for the maintenance,” asked Margaret Martin, Ward 4 alderman. “Who is responsible for cutting the grass?”
“It would fall under city parks,” answered Lisa Clayton, city of Franklin Parks Department, who joined McInturff and Mindy Tate, executive director of Franklin Tomorrow, in the presentation.
Clayton indicated that her department would “definitely” need to add staff should the proposal come to fruition.
McInturff said the funding to construct the arena would largely come from private sources, with some degree of matching grants from the city. The revenue, he said, would support the proposed multi-purpose equestrian arena and the city’s other parks.
“Friends of Franklin Parks would propose to lease the five-acre site from the city for a period of five years and operate day-to-day administration of the facility for that same period of time,” according to materials provided by the group.
McInturff and Tate largely sidestepped other questions pertaining to financing, citing their preference to wait for the group’s formal proposal at a future date to discuss funding.
“We don’t know exact numbers,” McInturff said, referring to an estimate to provide drainage for the property, which is situated in a 100-year floodplain. “What we really want to know is whether the city is interested.”
According to its proponents, the equestrian arena would be a draw for tourists, akin to equine-themed civic/private partnerships in Aiken, S.C.; Lexington, Ky.; and in throughout parts of Virginia.
“This is a special place where the horse can be a part of a lifestyle,” said McInturff, who co-owns Tennessee Equine Hospital in Thompson’s Station.
Specific uses for the site, its backers say, could include 4H Club and Boy Scouts events, therapeutic riding and arena polo, which is similar to polo, but requiring less acreage to play.
Specific uses must adhere to a conservation easement attached to the property, whose western border is defined by the Harpeth River. Last month, BOMA cited the conservation easement when it declined a request by the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County to house carnival rides at the park during Main Street Festival April 27-28.
City Administrator Eric Stuckey said Bowie Nature Park in Fairview is able to host a broad swath of events despite being governed by a similar conservation easement.
“We’re discussing something that would have similar language,” Stuckey said. “We’re talking about something that would not change the character of the place long term.”
BOMA considers raises for itself
BOMA also began discussion on how best to give itself a pay raise, something it has not done for 25 years, according to Ward 1 Alderman Beverly Burger. During the non-voting session April 9, the aldermen considered whether it would be best to stagger pay increases in conjunction with the elections this fall, or to increase all members’ pay simultaneously.
Aldermen, all of whom serve part time, currently receive $4,800 annually for their services plus a per-meeting stipend of $20 after their first meeting. They are eligible for health, dental and life insurance; mileage reimbursement and receive a laptop for business purposes. The mayor receives the same benefits as well as $9,600 annually. For comparison’s sake, Brentwood city commissioners, who also serve part time, receive $11,400 annually.
“I won’t support a raise above two percent,” said Ward 2 Alderman Dana McLendon, referring to the pay raise full-time city employees received last year. “This is a job I would do for free, and simultaneously it’s a job you could not pay me enough to do.”
Posted on: 4/10/2013