Franklin leaders vote down measure to develop Brownland Farm

Posted at 10:39 PM, Apr 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-27 22:07:22-04

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — In a unanimous decision, Franklin aldermen voted down a measure to rezone property to create a development on Brownland Farm.

Opponents — clad in yellow stickers — walked into city hall with dozens speaking out against flooding concerns surrounding the property. At least 60 people spoke out during the public hearing, one of the longer ones in the city's history. Many of those who spoke out against the rezoning were impacted by the 2010 and 2021 floods. During those weather events, the Harpeth River rose above 30 feet both times, according to data from the National Weather Service. The board voted to approve the plan during the first reading.

"I am going to ask you to vote no," 22-year resident Judy Alexander said. "I want you to think about the tax liability and the liability to the City of Franklin when it floods. You heard how much the 2010 flood costs."

Developers have put Brownland Farms through several configurations for the land along Hillsboro Road. Originally, the plans for the property had 700 units but shrunk to around 365 residences. The Franklin Planning Commission didn't recommend the project's approval because it didn't meld with the city's land-use plan. City planning staff noted before aldermen that 70.8% of units would go into the floodplain in some way.

City Administrator Eric Stuckey told the board before voting on this plan that it could set precedent for future planned unit developments proposed for city consideration.

"You don't want one development to change the policy and become the policy," Stuckey said. "And that essentially you may be creating a policy change tonight whether you know or not and we have 40 square miles of urban growth boundary to come."

Developers said they were frustrated with the process, noting the city was putting them in a box and exhausting the process that's been a three-year discussion.

"There is so much fear, and I am empathetic to it," developer Kevin Estes said. "You couldn't even get flood insurance until 1978. There's a lot of properties are in the floodplain. We didn't have the tech or science. If you're in Fieldstone Farms, I would be the most upset. You can't zone this because Envision Franklin says no? I have never been put in an us versus you situation. Where was the policy and floodplain conversation two years ago? I am not allowed to be creative at this point. I am merely asking how the city conducts its business for itself, and think about where we have started and where we have been. Listen to the facts and the experts."

During the weekend, opponents stood along Hillsboro Road with colorful signage, waving at cars to show they were against the plan.

In a rare move, Mayor Ken Moore gave his dissent to aldermen before they voted on the plan, indicating the development gave him "red flags" in his mind.

There will be no third reading on the plan.