Board to draw up new plan before its March meeting.
The Town of Franklin held its monthly meeting on Monday where members of the community attended to voice their opinions in regards to issues such as the decision to keep a liaison from East Franklin Elementary School, the fate of the Gazebo on Town Square and the Town Hall meetings proposed by Mayor Bob Scott.
Brittney Burns spoke to the board first to show her disapproval of the decision made at last month’s meeting to not establish a liaison at East Franklin.
“I do not see what it would hurt. Ideally, I would think the board would want to foster cooperation and that you all would want to be involved in the lives of your citizens, so to find out that you are against a simple liaison, even though you had someone willing to do it, is baffling,” she told the board.
Burns also pointed to the benefits of a cooperative approach such as the possibility of helping fund a student resource officer like the one that the Town of Highlands has provided for their school.
“The Town of Highlands not only substantially helps Highlands School with countless activities and operations, they also provide an SRO to that school,” Burns said. “They provide the funding through their department. Do they care more about their children than you all do?”
The gazebo garnered most of the attention. The plans for a new structure to replace the gazebo were presented at last month's town retreat by Town Manager Warren Cabe. In addition to the stage area, the proposed structure would house storage space and possibly two restrooms that would be open to the public during festivals and other events such as Pickin' On The Square. When the plans were made public, community members began to offer ideas regarding the future of the space. At Monday's meeting, many of those citizens urged the board to take a different direction during the public comment period.
“First, the building doesn't fit the local vernacular,” said Bonnie Pickartz of Goshen Timber Frames. “If you drive around the town and look at the commercial buildings and homes, they are more simpler. There are a lot of craftsman style. These plans are Victorian. It just doesn't capture the local charm and feel.”
She also pointed to the upkeep that the building would require and the way a closed structure would block the businesses that would be located behind it. One of the issues of the initial design is whether restrooms will be included which brings up even more concerns.
“I don't know if performers would appreciate people going in and out of the restrooms or having flushing sounds coming from behind them,” Pickartz said.
Sandy Pantaleo, owner of Main Street Coffee & Tea also disagreed on the design as presented.
“I've spoken with several of my customers and other shop owners about this new building and have found that their opinions reflect my own. The look of the building feels closed, reserved and dated. It would be beneficial to have more open air type structure, something that reflects our status as an AT and outdoor oriented community,” she said.
Matt Bateman from Stay and Play in the Smokies, also located in the vicinity of the proposed structure shared his thoughts on it.
“I, too, echo some of the sentiments that have been expressed so far. My questions are, 'is it a sustainable structure? What is the long-term strategy of the structure with the existing fountain that is underneath it? I would almost rather see the existing structure stay there a year or two longer and perhaps exhaust all of our partnering and financial and design outlets,” he said.
The majority of speakers at the meeting expressed their support for Scott's monthly 'Town Hall' style meetings that ran into legal complications at the January meeting and were therefore put on hold for the time-being. Bateman pointed to the benefit of said meetings as a way to facilitate discussions such as the ones concerning the gazebo.
“It would open up the lines of communication for better ideas or a design contest. We could take it as far as we want. I feel like town hall meetings would give people a voice who may not have a vote in town, like business owners or property owners. I think it's very important and would make for a healthier community,” said Bateman.
Cabe and the aldermen appreciated the public input.
“Our preliminary plan did what it was supposed to, it's got the town's people talking” Cabe told the board. “We knew that the drawings were not going to be a final product, but it gave you a starting point. That particular design was started with some different stake-holders who use the facility. I guess where we're at now is that I need to know where all you want me to take this.”
Aldermen Verlin Curtis suggested the allowance of more input from those who wished to share ideas.
“If we were to get started right now, we could probably have it done by the time Pickin' starts, but I don't have a problem with waiting,” Cabe said.
The general consensus of the board was that waiting and gathering more input was the best option.
“So how about, by March, the board comes up with a plan to consider a time frame and how to go about gathering design ideas from the public,” said Scott.
With everybody in agreement, the aldermen will now develop a plan to present at the next board meeting that will take place on March 3 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.