Letter to the Editor: Commission’s approval of Southbrooke PUD is giant mistake

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How often does Franklin’s Planning Commission ignore city staff recommendations? The answer: rarely. Yet this is what happened on June 27, when the Commission approved the Southbrooke planned unit development. 

The Southbrooke development, which includes property on both sides of Lewisburg Pike south of Goose Creek Bypass, was approved for 749 residential units with 27% of the lot widths proposed being less than the Envision Franklin standard. Envision Franklin requires a residential lot to be no less than 45 feet wide, but the Southbrooke plan includes lots as narrow as 34 feet.

The lot-width issue was the stated basis of the staff’s recommendation for denial. Two planning commissioners, Ann Peterson and Marcia Allen, stated they could not support this plan, citing concerns with lot widths that allow additional units and increase demands on transportation, sewer and water systems. All other planning commissioners voted to approve the Southbrooke plan as submitted.

Peterson made the point that while the overall development is proposed as 2.36 units per acre density, the actual density of the development will be much higher due to the unbuildable area. The total acreage assembled is 318 acres, however Greg Gamble, the developer’s representative, stated that 185 acres will be dedicated as a park and nearly all of the 185 acres is in a hillside/hilltop overlay that is undevelopable. Therefore, the 749 units will be constructed on 133 acres, resulting in a density of 5.6 units per acre. 

It is worth noting that conservation subdivision regulations require 50% open space, so this parkland dedication is not a gift, it is actually only 24 acres more than the required 159-acre dedication.

Gamble stated the proposed residences will range in sales price from $280,000 to $1 million. The $280,000-$400,000 units are the attached buildings that range from two to four units per “big house.” In other words, the “big house” units will look like condominium or townhouse units. Or, to put it more plainly, they are duplex, triplex, or quadplex buildings. Gamble stated that nearly all lots will be alley-loaded, similar to Westhaven and Berry Farms, where garages are accessed from the alley and front doors are for foot traffic only.

With regard to the preserving the rural character of the area as stated in the Envision Franklin planning document (prepared by the city of Franklin), Gamble stated deep setbacks from Lewisburg Pike will be provided. He said the existing setback from the edge of pavement on Lewisburg Pike to the existing houses in Stream Valley is 125 feet. This same setback is proposed to the closest residential building in Southbrooke. 

However, he went on to say the traffic study shows Lewisburg Pike will eventually need to be expanded to two travel lanes in each direction with a median in the middle and adjacent sidewalks/trails. What setback will then remain to the Southbrooke buildings? Something around the 80-foot distance, not 125 feet. And who will fund this significant road widening? When will it occur? A road widening of this magnitude could take 10 years to plan, design and construct.

As with all city of Franklin plan of service documents, the topic of school capacity for students who would eventually live in this development was not addressed. The plans indicate 480 students are projected. What schools could accommodate this additional student load?

The approval of the Southbrooke plan was a disappointing and disheartening decision by the Planning Commission. As stated by Allen during the meeting, if the Commission approves development plans that do not comply with the Envision Franklin standards, then every plan that is submitted in the future will not “follow the rules.” 

The Commission’s decision shows clear disregard for the Envision Franklin planning document. What compelled the Planning Commissioners to approve the Southbrooke plan? Why would it ignore the staff’s recommendation? If the Commission isn’t concerned with following the Envision Franklin standards, then why do the standards exist?

In order to accommodate growth, this area of Williamson County, which is within Franklin’s urban growth boundary, is a logical area for densification (i.e., more units per acre). However, the city should only approve responsible growth that complies with the city’s standards.

Kathy Webber

Citizens for Responsible Growth

Franklin

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