County officials are going to come up with a different design for a new community corrections facility in the hopes of getting approval to build on the property they want.

A five-member Franklin board denied two variances the county needed in order to build a new facility at the corner of Hospital and Drake roads.

Officials wanted to build a three-story center to house community corrections, adult probation, alcohol and drug services and other office space for businesses, such as a career placement company.

Although the county has an existing community corrections building, officials say the current facility is too small. For example, the facility has about 100 beds but space for only 10 females, which is almost always full, officials have said.

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Officials also want to offer more addiction and drug-related programming for offenders.

But the approximately 38,500-foot proposed building needed two exceptions before the county could build: To allow fewer parking spaces on the property than required for new construction, and less landscaping between the building and neighboring businesses and residences than required by the city.

The proposed building is too large to fit on the 1.8-acre property, according to the city staff report.

The Franklin Board of Zoning Appeals was undecided last month and did more research and studied the area before voting this week, they said. Since last month’s board of zoning appeals meeting, Commissioner Ron West and other county officials have discussed possible changes to the proposed building so it could be approved in the future.

One plan that has not been discussed: Finding another location on which to build the facility.

Johnson Memorial Health donated the land to the county last year, and it’s the best location for the new facility because of the close proximity to the hospital and jail, West said.

“I’m going to continue to pursue that facility right there on that piece of ground,” West said. “That’s the only option we have at this point in time that renders itself best for the future.”

The Franklin board voted against both exceptions 4-1, with member Brian Alsip as the lone person voting to allow it.

Because of board of zoning appeals rules, the board members were not allowed to meet with anyone who is working on the project, in case that could influence their decision, city attorney Lynn Gray said.

West now plans on meeting with each board member one-on-one to find out what it will take to get the building approved at that location, he said.

The biggest issue with the proposed building is the lack of parking on-site, board members said. City rules require a building of that size to have at least 172 parking spots on the property, but the proposed configuration has space for 42. About 725 feet away, across Hospital Road, is a second parking lot where people could park and walk to the facility, West said. All employees and people who are staying at the community corrections facility as part of the work release program would be required to park in the off-site lot, he said.

Although the county is offering the off-site parking lot as an option for visitors, employees and offenders housed in the community corrections program, people will most likely park on-site or in nearby parking lots when temperatures turn colder, board member Jim Martin said.

“I’m not against the project, just the location,” Martin said.

But West said the majority of the parking spots on-site would be empty, because most people housed at the community corrections facility now do not have vehicles and do not get visitors, he said. For example, out of about 60 people who are living in the facility now, only 10 have vehicles, West said.

The only vehicles coming to the new facility would be from people needing to see professionals for adult probation or drug services, West said.

One solution could be to reduce the size of the building by about 7,000-square-feet, which would create additional space for on-site parking, West said. The number of parking spots could grow from 42 to 62 with the smaller building plan, West said.

He also thinks the city should be willing to waive some of the requirements for landscaping and parking.

“Nobody on that board has condemned the programming. Their concern is the parking spaces and trees,” West said.

“The planning department is working from black and white. The whole idea of the board of zoning appeals is to work in that gray area. To be able to see situations like ours and make an inclination based on that.”

Building alternative

County officials are looking at ways to keep the proposed community corrections facility on the 1.8-acre lot at the corner of Drake and Hospital Roads. Here is a look at the top alternative:

Proposed building before:

– 38,500-square-feet

– 42 parking spots on-site

Proposed building after:

– 31,500-square-feet

– 62 parking spots on-site

SOURCE: County commissioner Ron West