I was in attendance last night for the Mayoral Ad-Hoc Development Process Review Committee meeting, which lasted 2 hours on the dot (thank goodness for Plan Commission meetings at 7pm!). The first meeting covered several issues, but was dominated by the concerns of hometown developer Mark Carstensen. Carstensen's frustration about the development process in Franklin led up to a point where he mentioned that our community is referred to, at times, the "People's Republic of Franklin" due to our complications and strictness.
Now I'll be the first to say that Franklin is anything but a communistic state. However, I do see the issues developers have in the development process. The main part of these complications in the planning, in my opinion, tend to be with review by our Planning Department. In terms of difficulties with Plan Staff, Carstensen and fellow MAHDRPC member Jim O'Malley aren't the only developers to have several issues with their review.
I recall in 2008 when Fountains of Franklin developer David Hintzman and his Azana project ran into similar stumbling blocks. When a developer is looking for ways to cooperate, it always seems the city, via Plan Staff, is looking to block or complicate things. It leads to many developers scratching their heads and becoming extremely frustrated to the point where a singular project of theirs in Franklin could likely be their last.
During the meeting, I found myself agreeing with many of Jim O'Malley's points, especially when he mentioned that many retailers and restaurants Franklin residents have asked for are popping up in our neighboring communities. With this in mind, O'Malley correctly stated that if Franklin continues down the trend of not pushing for additional retailers and restaurants to consider Franklin, we'll be out of options due to the close proximity we have to Southridge in Greendale or Howell Avenue in Oak Creek. In my opinion, we have two areas where hope still shines: the Fountains of Franklin area (51st & Rawson) and the civic center district, which comprises of many parcels of land from Loomis & Drexel southwest to Showtime Cinema.
Carstensen's remarks focused on several items, to which I found myself agreeing and disagreeing with as the points moved along. I agreed with the position that, while Franklin's Unified Development Ordinance allows construction of traditional neighborhood developments (TNDs), it is very difficult to move forward with the process. Such development concepts should be encouraged by our community, and thus the process should be easier to work with.
I disagreed on the remarks Carstensen had relating to impact fees and construction of apartments. Carstensen referenced his new work. the Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake project, by telling the committee that the project will cost him $400,000 in impact fees. This is due to every apartment being considered the same as a single-family home, which is a $5900 impact fee. When the math is done, the fees certainly add up, and Carstensen would like apartment complexes redefined in terms of how many dollars are collected for such fees. I disagree with this because every apartment technically is the same as a single-family dwelling. Each individual apartment has a couple or family within it. Furthermore, these couples or families don't have backyards to access if they want to lay outside and grab some sunshine. With this in mind, they are more likely to utilize things like parks in comparison to those living in homes. Curbing back on impact fees for complexes also has an effect on how much the city collects and can spend on things like our parks.
Our Parks Department relies heavily on impact fees to fund projects, whether it be parks, trails, or construction of items like basketball courts to gazebos inside the parks. If Carstensen's wish won favor with the council, $400,000 that right now is coming from Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake would be a lot less. Can our Parks Department afford to have fees chopped down? I suppose that's the question that needs an answer.
All-in-all, I felt it was a good first meeting. Mayor Taylor is moving rather aggressively with this committee, and with that in mind they plan to meet again next Thursday.