Decision unanimous by Town
Two voluntary annexation petitions were voted upon at Monday’s Town of Franklin Board of Aldermen meeting—one approved and one denied.
The first petition for annexation up for consideration was for the site of the future Wal-Mart Supercenter on Dowdle Mountain Road. The property of the site is owned by Joe and Emma Jean Taylor. The petition was approved unanimously, with no one from the public speaking for or against the matter.
The petition for the voluntary annexation of Ridgecrest Exxon, on U.S. 441 North, was then considered for a second time, with citizens speaking for and against it. The store had applied for annexation previously in January, but was denied with a unanimous vote at the time.
This time, residents of the community came out to speak against the annexation. “We are in opposition of the annexation of Ridgecrest Exxon,” said Thomas Fouts, who spoke on behalf of Ridgecrest Baptist Church as well as the surrounding community. Fouts brought with him a petition signed by 281 citizens against the annexation. “We object because when you look at this, the only economic purpose that can come out it in the long run is to have a license to sell alcoholic beverages.”
Fouts said that with the store being at the outer edge of the north end of city limits, the store would act as a gateway to Franklin on 441 North. “The first thing people are going to see as they come into town is beer and wine sales,” he said, noting that the store is within 350 feet of the church.
Billy Vanhook, owner of Ridgecrest Gas and Grocery, then took the floor to speak in favor of annexing the store. “All we want is to be treated fair,” said Vanhook of himself and the store’s stakeholders. “The same way that other people have been treated fair in annexation, making their property and their land worth more.”
Vanhook cited the property of Thai Paradise, on the Georgia Road, as having a nearly identical proximity to the town. “It’s one point five miles from town. And we are exactly, one point five miles from town, too,” said Vanhook. He added that a church near the Thai Paradise restaurant was within the same proximity as his store to Ridgecrest Baptist. “Please don’t rule us out because of selective annexation,” he said, adding that his petition was not solely submitted to sell alcohol.
Ridgecrest’s attorney Orville Coward Jr. took the floor, pleading with aldermen to reconsider the store’s petition. He said that because the petition was filed before the town amended its policy on voluntary annexation Ridgecrest should be treated as it would have before then.
According to Coward, the amendment read that the town “will not” consider voluntary annexation of a non-contiguous property outside the defined ETJ, if the sole or primary purpose of the annexation is to allow the sales of beer, wine or spirits. He said that the problem with the adoption of that policy was that it lost all discretion which would allow aldermen to vote for or against a petition.
After further alleging that the policy amendment was inadequately drafted and passed by the board, and some noticeable disapproval by Town Attorney John Henning, the board voted unanimously to deny the Ridgecrest request.
Vice Mayor Verlin Curtis, who motioned to deny the petition, said he felt annexation of the property was “of little value to the town.”
Festival street closures
Aldermen unanimously voted to pass a draft that would outline requirements for downtown streets to close for festivals.
The draft provided that if a festival is going to have a parade with vehicles, then Main Street cannot be closed for safety reasons.
However if Main Street should be closed, the draft required several stipulations:
Main Street must be closed for 12 hours during the day of the festival, it must be filled from Town Hall to Macon Bank with activities or vendors, a 14-foot emergency lane for vehicles must be available, ten feet of space must be made available between vendor tents, vendor layout must be brought to Main Street Program director Linda Schlott one month prior to the event, and Phillips, Iotla and Stewart Streets must be closed depending on festival needs.
Along with the drafts passing, the board also voted unanimously in favor of closing Phillips, Iotla and Main Street for the Taste of Scotland festival on June 18 and Pumpkin Fest on Oct. 21-22.
Aldermen voted unanimously to appoint Summer Woodard to replace Assistant Town Manager Mike Decker on the Tourism Development Commission. Woodard, who is one of the founding members of Franklin Young Professionals, was “very excited” to serve the TDC.
The appointment was in light of Decker’s recent announcement that he will be returning to employment with the county government.