Franklin’s Town Council has approved a comprehensive land use plan aimed at preserving Franklin’s small-town charm and creating more green spaces while making infrastructural improvements to make it all more accessible to residents and visitors.
Town council members unanimously approved the plan at its June 1 meeting after multiple delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan, which was designed by the town’s planning department with help from Stewart Inc., lays out a set of guidelines for town land use policy over the next several years.
The plan has been in development since last summer and has gone through multiple reviews by town employees and the public, whose feedback reflected a demand for more affordable housing, increased access to downtown shopping, optimization of outdoor spaces and, most of all, preserving Franklin’s “small town character.”
“People really value the small town character of the town of Franklin,” said Jake Petrosky of Stewart. “The scenic beauty was mentioned a lot. The fact that you can walk nearly any street and look up and see a forested mountain ridgeline and the access to nature that provides, a lot of people stay here because of those things. A lot of people move here because of those things. A lot of people have businesses here because of those things.”
Council member David Culpepper was hesitant to vote for the plan. He played a major role in the development of the plan and was confident in its merits, but he felt it was customary to wait an extra month after the first opportunity to vote so that the public could take a closer look.
“I’d like to sit on it and have public comment on it next meeting and then revisit voting on it,” Culpepper said. “I think it behooves us to get some public feedback. It’s a 13-year plan if it lasts as long as the last one did.”
The rest of the council members, though, felt that they had waited long enough. The plan has been in development since early July, drafts have been available for citizens to read online, hundreds of residents responded to the plan’s priority survey, and the public has been welcome to several planning meetings on the topic.
Mayor Bob Scott felt that at this point in the development process, it would be disrespectful to the planners and to the public to delay the plan any further.
“This has been vetted to the nth degree,” Scott said. “We had a public session here tonight. We had a public comment period. It’s been advertised. It’s been posted in the agenda. It’s been everywhere. What can we do between now and July that would change your mind?”
The board ultimately adopted the plan by a unanimous margin vote.
The final draft of the comprehensive land use plan is available to read or download online at franklintownplan.com.