A vision for the future of downtown Franklin includes a park near Youngs Creek with an area that could hold water during heavy rains and provide space for festivals and events.
The area has been prone to flooding for years, leading to damage at businesses, streets underwater and drainage improvements.
Now, the city is once again discussing a plan that surfaced years ago that would turn the area off Jefferson Street, near Walnut Street, into a city park. The park space could be used for events and festivals, but it would also have a shallow water detention space to collect floodwater, with the goal of preventing it from heading to businesses and homes nearby.
The discussions are preliminary and no decisions have been made, Mayor Steve Barnett said.
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But some business owners in the area and elsewhere in the city might be interested in a voluntary buyout by the city, and that option is being explored, said Bob Heuchan, a city council member and president of the Franklin Redevelopment Commission.
That city board is discussing setting aside $50,000 that could pay for environmental studies and appraisals that would be needed before any property could be purchased, he said.
The city wants to hear from any property owner that has had flooding in the past and is interested in a possible buyout, Barnett said.
Any program would be completely voluntary, Barnett said.
The details of how a program would work are not yet decided. But if businesses are involved, the city cannot use Federal Emergency Management Agency funding like what was used in the buyout after the 2008 flood, Barnett said. So any program would need to be paid for with grants or city funds.
“We’re not saying we can buy every single one, but we can see what we can afford,” Barnett said.
“We are just setting money aside, so if someone comes and asks, we will take a look at it.”
If the city does buy properties, they cannot be built on again, which is why the city would look to use the land as greenspace or park land, Barnett said.
The idea is one Fred Paris had discussed when he was mayor, and suggested again after the most recent flooding last month. His business, Triple Play BBQ, took in some water, but not a significant amount, which is how the building was designed, he said.
But he said businesses in that area along Jefferson Street will continue to be at risk for flooding, especially with recent development to the north that makes it harder for water to drain, sending it downstream, he said.
That’s why he thinks it is time to get businesses that continue to flood moved elsewhere, and using that land for a park will also be a good asset for downtown Franklin, Paris said.
City officials first want to hear from property owners who might be interested in moving, Barnett said.
“If someone wants to move, we are willing to help them relocate, because we value their businesses,” he said.
The process will likely take years, Barnett said.