The façade grant program in downtown Franklin has proved successful among local businesses. Property tax funds have helped refurbish several buildings, making the core area even more inviting and attractive.
Now the city board responsible for making the grants is considering Hillview Country Club’s request for a $50,000 grant and whether it fits the criteria for a program meant to help spruce up the exterior of buildings.
Hillview, at 1800 E. King St., is undergoing a substantial renovation and recently announced that Scotty’s Brew Club will open a restaurant at the club this summer. While the club is members-only, Scotty’s and the existing Lou’s Den lunch pub are open to the public.
Most of the funding for the Franklin Development Corp. comes from tax-increment financing district money that was given by the city to the group when it was created in 2008. TIF money comes from taxes paid by businesses that can be set aside for infrastructure or economic development uses. Façade grants match 50 percent of the cost of a project, up to $50,000 maximum.
Businesses applying for façade grants from the development agency have to meet multiple criteria. The façade must be street-facing and publicly visible, and the business must be in an area where the city can use TIF district funds.
Hillview is nearly a quarter-mile off King Street on the city’s east side, and visitors need to travel up a long driveway to the clubhouse.
The country club is a valuable community asset that Franklin can be proud of, and a renovated clubhouse would enhance its value.
But the fact remains Hillview is a primarily private entity, and putting taxpayer money into it would have limited public benefit.
In addition, its location is well outside the downtown, which has been the focus of grants up to now. We believe the downtown should remain the area of emphasis. A thriving downtown is vital to Franklin’s long-term success as an attractive and vibrant community. Allowed to deteriorate, the area would drive away rather than attract business.
Because the grants come from tax receipts, the fundamental question is whether the grants will benefit a broad segment of the public. In this case, a private country club doesn’t qualify.
A business outside Franklin’s downtown is seeking a tax-funded grant to help improve its facade.
City officials should not spend tax dollars on a private club that lies outside the core revitalization area.