Monday, February 4, 2008

Can't Fight City Hall

They tell nothing because they are making big money deals behind your back.

We are, the general population, struggle to, "hold what we've got" while city hall undermines the quality of our lives.

Are you aware that Franklin City politicians and their developer buddies have decided that the area in the Moores Lane/Franklin Road, (once the beautiful gateway from Nashville to Franklin) has been scheduled to become a "High Density" area?

Meaning: Get ready to live in Nashville's version of the South side of Chicago.
Look out your kitchen window and look into your neighbors bathroom window 8 feet away.

Maybe you work a day job? You have a couple kids? Your time is stretched to the limit. You cannot attend every single Franklin City Hall meeting and spend 24/7 defending your neighborhood.

I was born in Hollywood. When I was a kid I remember riding the electric streetcars downtown LA. I remember Angels Flight. The pond in the park in East LA was clear and pure and you could eat the catfish you caught there.

I haven't looked at the stats but my guess would be that the population of Los Angeles & the San Fernando Valley in 1958 is roughly what the population Tennessee's Williamson and Davidson counties combined would be now.

By the time I was 24 I was working at Price Waterhouse at Pershing Square in Los Angeles. The once beautiful bussling downtown area I remembered from my childhood had become 'Skid Row.' Electric streetcars gone. Replaced by smokey city busses.

At 29 years old, I escaped the City of Angels with its traffic, filth, smog and gangs and
moved to beautiful Williamson County Tennessee.
The clean little town where the curbs were swept and the shops signs were written in English. (Wow. This feels like home!)

Locals loved their town. Beautiful place. No graffitti. Remember those days?

I remember Franklin as a place where parents loved, guided and supervised their children. Raised them with a sense of spirituality to know the difference between right and wrong. Raised them to know they would be disciplined were they caught spray painting city buildings and bridges. (duh?)

Back then, old friends would visit me here.

They were amazed by our exquistly beautiful little town. One friend said,"My God, it's like Beverly Hills or a page out of Homes and
Gardens. Each and everyhome has such a beautifully maintained yard."
and yes, this was before Franklinites started hiring illegal aliens to do their gardening.

Anyway, this post is really a lament for a fight I've most likely lost. The fight to maintain a quality of life I've known and loved here in Franklin Tennessee.

The City of Franklin Annexed our property about 8 years ago. Without notice. YES! Without notice! My neighbors and I were unaware we had been annexed until we received our city property tax bills.

When my husband called the city attorney and inquired as to why we were not notified, he said, "We Take the Position that you were notified."
What kind of talk is that? "We take the Position..."?

If my neighbors and I were notified about the annexation then the city has certified letters on file? Nope. ("Oh Gee... where'd they go, Hoss?")

Please see my small film of how life once was in
Franklin Tennessee. It was paradise on earth.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Planned by a committee.

Are you are a Franklin Tennessee homeowner? Do you live in a gated community, on a quiet back street or a cul-de-sac? How would you feel if one day the City converted your quiet street to a main thoroughfare without ever notifying or consulting you or your neighbors? Living on a main thoroughfare places children and pets at risk, impacts the value of your property and forever changes your quality of your life.

My husband and I and his 92-year-old Mother live on Country Road, a quiet cul-de-sac off of Franklin Road just South of Moores Lane. You’ve probably driven past this tiny street for years and never noticed it was here. To we homeowners living on Country Road, this is a good thing. We’ve enjoyed this peaceful haven for several decades. Over the years I’ve enjoyed watching the deer, raccoon, rabbit and the bobcat. I’ve enjoyed the seeing the gray heron and the migrating Canadian geese land in the pond on the neighboring property outside my back door. Each morning, the wild birds sit on our porch rail waiting to be fed as they have for the last 22 years.

I’ve witnessed the human population explosion in Williamson County. I knew the pristine paradise at my back door wouldn’t last forever. It didn’t surprise me when I heard, just a few weeks back, a church, Grace Point, was planning to build a three story building in the beautiful wide valley that adjoins the back of our property. The true horror of it didn’t hit me until I saw the building plans. They were planning to utilize an old county easement that sits directly between our house and Mrs. Tidwell’s house as the main entrance to their proposed 26,000 sq ft church.

In February of 1996 my husband contacted many Williamson County planners asking about the possibility of purchasing the old easement. The traffic noise from Franklin road was growing and we wanted a sound barrier. We talked with the County Attorney, Rick Buerger, and Bob Adjent who was the Development Director for the Williamson County Planning Commission and Councilman, Newt McCord. We also consulted Robert Ring and Joe Horn whose positions with Williamson County I know longer recall.
All of these gentlemen assured us there was no need to purchase the easement, as they felt certain it would never be used. They encouraged us to landscape the small strip of land saying, “Plant away!” The glorious row of twenty trees we planted now stands thirty feet tall. They are densely populated with birds.

Three weeks ago, a man was standing in our side yard. I asked him why he was there. I learned that he was Mr. Libovitz, the engineer for the Grace Point Church project. He was there to determine how to establish an entrance to the church on the old easement.
I asked him what kind of plans had been made to save/move our trees. He said, (and I quote) “You can kiss those trees goodbye.” I recoiled at his choice of words and instantly demonized Grace Point in my mind. What kind of a church would do such a thing? They are swaggering, obtrusive, invaders with no thought of the impact they are having on our community. They intend to simply run us over. Why isn’t this church using the Franklin Road entrance? The Franklin Road entrance has existed for 30 years or more. It was used by the Taylors for twenty years and, more recently, by the Munson’s and their 15 Foster children. No problem.

It hurt to think that our neighbors, the Hiemerman’s, five children would no longer roller blade past my Country Road home. Nor would they ride sleds down the hill at Christmas. Nope. Not with buses full of parishioners rolling straight towards them.

My husband and I had long been scheduled to be out of the country and didn’t arrive back home until December 12, 2006. At the last minute, I tried to rally the neighbors on Country Road in order to protest the Grace Point Church plans that were scheduled to be approved without objection. None of my neighbors had heard anything of the meeting before that very day. Some had unbreakable “events” at which they had to appear. Others were crunching for finals the next day. One was afraid to, “go against the Church” but those who could attend, did so.

On Thursday evening, December 14, 2006, my husband and I and several Country Road neighbors attended the Franklin Planning Commission meeting. I felt angry and nervous and bewildered by the protocol/process. Thankfully, my husband, with the guidance of several planning commission members, (Chris Ude in particular) learned that when the Agenda number came up, it was time to stand and say, “Pardon please. We neighbors are none too pleased.”

There was much hubbub and yack amongst the council. A traffic analyst stood to say that he’d calculated a peak of approximately 200 cars going up and down our tiny cul-de-sac on Wednesdays and Sundays. (I later learned Grace Point has a congregation of around 500.) Two commission members opposed passing the present building plans that would convert our street to main thoroughfare and yet… it passed.

My husband and I were in despair as we headed out the door when a red headed stranger approached. He introduced himself saying, “I am Mark Borders, one of the pastors at Grace Point Church. I am sorry if we have caused you distress and I’ll work with you in anyway I can.” Wow. Communication. I replied saying, “My husband and I feel the damage of this decision more than anyone else. I am bitter and outraged. Still, I cannot help but feel for you as well. On the way to the Planning Commission meeting this evening, we noticed that not a single existing church along Franklin Road had been forced to bear the cost of widening Franklin Road 50 feet in order to install a turn lane. Why is that?” (In fact, when the Legends PGA Golf Course holds tournaments, thousands of fans attend. They are rich. Yet, they have not been forced to bear the cost of building a turn lane off of Franklin Road.)

Pastor Borders explained to us that Grace Point had purchased the property with the assumption that they would be able to use the Franklin Road entrance as the main entrance to their church just like all the other churches on Franklin Road. Grace Point wanted a grand entrance on Franklin Road! It was the City Hall planning department traffic engineers who had dictated that traffic to be routed up our tiny street. The planning department based their decision of an obscure access ordinance within the zoning ordinances 8.1 Chapter 8 saying they had no power to override the ordinance and therefore must enforce it. This ridiculous, indiscriminant, ordinance is already making our lives miserable and lowering the value of our homes. The ordinance needs to be amended immediately or a variance granted.

None of the planning board members live in our neighborhood and their quality of life will not be directly affected by their decision. Though some board members expressed sympathy for the bad situation in which we’ve been placed, it’s their job to enforce the letter of the law no matter how illogical or unreasonable and with no consideration for or whom it may hurt.

The City planning department’s decision has hurt not only us, it has also placed a heavy financial burden upon the church; as they’ve demanded Grace Point Church expand both Franklin Road and the mouth of Country Road at a projected cost of around $250,000. The Church was forced to scale back their plans in order to work within their budget.

This is a horrible tragedy. Neither the homeowners on Country Road nor Grace Point Church want this back street entrance.

The $250,000 expense now faced by Grace Point church would feed a lot of hungry people. This money could most certainly be put to better use. It is inevitable Franklin Road will be widened to at least a three-lane road within the next year or two. It simply must happen. What then? The county will bulldoze and redo all the entrances and exits off of Franklin Road. All the money Grace Point will have paid to widen Franklin Road and the entrance to Country Road will be money down the drain. Meanwhile, the quiet sanctity of Country Road will have been ruined forever.

Clear View Baptist church is a large, affluent, well established church that sits on the west side of Franklin Road and has two entrances onto Franklin Road. Clear View Baptist’s southern property boundary aligns perfectly with the existing entrance to the Grace Point church property directly across Franklin Road. The City of Franklin has recently re-zoned Clear View Baptist church and has asked that they move their southern entrance over 50 yards to the north
in order that it be aligned to our little Country Road.

Clear View Baptist’s blacktopped parking area presently extends to the southern border of its property line. It makes much more sense to move their present southern entrance 15 feet further south so that the main entrance to Grace Point and the south entrance to Clear View Baptist would be directly across the street from one another rather than funneling large busses and heavy traffic down our tiny dead end street.

If necessary, a traffic signal that only initializes and blinks yellow on Sunday mornings could be installed over the center of Franklin road at the then aligned entrances to the two churches on either side of Franklin Road.

The planning commission should exercise whatever means necessary in order that we neighbors who have lived on Country Road for decades are able to preserve our precious peace tranquility, quality of life and home values. Quaintness and serenity are the essence of Franklin. These qualities should be honored and preserved.

Earlier today, planning department member Micha Wood (615) 791-3212 x4, told me that any opportunity for the public to address this issue had already passed when the Grace Point plans were approved by the board. He said the only option left us was to sue the city. Then, later this afternoon, city planner Jamie Gross telephone and he said we should write our Aldermen. (Apparently, the Aldermen have the power to block the handing over of the easement to Grace Point which would send the issue back to the planning department for a re-hearing by the public.)

I encourage all Franklin homeowners to write our Mayor
and Alderman in support of preserving our quiet street.

Phone: (615) 791-3217Fax: (615) 790-0469Email:

Alderman, Beverly Burger 1373 Liberty Pike Franklin, TN 37067 Email:

Also, look at a birdseye view of the churches entrances on Franklin road areas on a mapquest aerial view or a aerial view. This will give you a better idea as to how simply the Church entrances can be aligned across from one another on Franklin Road.

I pray that Grace Point Church, Clear View Baptist Church, the City of Franklin and all Franklin homeowners will take a closer look at this issue. Let us all work diligently in order to iron out these issues before it’s too late.

~ Kittra