Apartment plans voted down; hotel future in question

A proposal to bring apartments and a hotel to the east side of Franklin has stalled after residents and city officials raised concerns about the 120-unit housing development.

And now, a plan for an 80-room hotel is also in limbo.

Rob and Amy Richardson, who own City View Apartments in Franklin, had proposed investing nearly $20 million into an 11-acre property off King Street, just west of Interstate 65. They had asked the city redevelopment commission to help pay for the land purchase with a $560,000 grant.

But residents who live nearby, especially in the Fairway Lakes neighborhood, and city officials raised concerns about the proposed apartment complex. The land where the apartments would go isn’t zoned to allow multi-family housing, raising the concern of whether the project would be approved by the city, especially with the opposition from residents.

That led the city redevelopment commission to vote against the grant request, and now whether the hotel will still happen is unknown.

Without the apartments, the layout and plans for the property would need to change, with the hotel moving back on the property so retail developments could be closer to King Street, Rob Richardson said. He pointed out that retail stores also close, leaving vacancies, and that he had tried to recruit possible retail developments for Franklin and gotten no response.

The current best use of the land is market rate apartments, since City View Apartments is one of only two apartment complexes in the city that are market rate, he said. And without the money from the city, they would need to reconsider whether to buy the property at all.

More than 40 residents came to the meeting to speak against the proposed development, with several raising concerns about the apartments.

Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett also said he was not in favor of the apartments, since the city had long discussed developing that property with retail and restaurants, and multi-family housing was not a part of the city’s long-term development plans for that area. Apartments were also not discussed during public meetings about a loan the city took out on tax-increment financing, or TIF, districts, which is where the grant for the project would have come from, he said.

Multiple residents raised concerns about traffic and noise from the apartments and their property values being lowered, and said that apartments were not what they expected when they bought or built their homes nearby.

They pointed to the millions of dollars the city is spending to redevelop the gateway into the city on the eastside, and questioned if apartments were the best option for that prime development area.

Dave Dowden said he was concerned about apartments backing up to his backyard in nearby Fairway Lakes and the amount of traffic and noise that would come with that. He would rather see a business, such as a bar or restaurants, since that more closely fits with the city’s development plans and since those businesses would close at some point, rather than residents coming and going all the time.

“Anything but apartments,” Dowden said.

Residents said they understood the need for a hotel, which has been discussed as an option for the property in the past, but not for the apartments.

“The area is not zoned for multi-family, and it’s not in the comprehensive plan. It’s not a good use of the property,” resident Terry Lancer said.

Because of the fact that the land is not zoned for apartments, the city board of zoning appeals would need to give a special approval for multi-family housing to be built on the property, city attorney Lynn Gray said. Barnett had asked Gray to talk about the zoning so redevelopment commission members knew what was required.

And with the concern from residents, it is a strong possibility the development would not get the approval needed, Gray said.

If the apartments were not approved, Rob Richardson said the hotel development would maybe continue, but that the site plans would likely need to be changed.

Redevelopment commission member Bob Heuchan said another concern was who will manage the apartments long-term, in case the Richardsons decide to sell someday, and what that development will look like 20 to 30 years in the future.

“Franklin is plagued by bad housing, it gives us a stigma, and it hurts development,” Heuchan said.

Heuchan said that with the doubts that apartments would be approved, he would like the developers to look at other options. And he said the city board would still be willing to work with them on a hotel, with stipulations on the quality and standards of the development.

Members of the redevelopment commission voted against the proposal for the $560,000 grant 4-1. Member Keith Fox voted yes.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.