New business touts potential of revitalizing downtown.
The Franklin Board of Aldermen held a special called meeting on Tuesday, March 18 to consider a new offer on town owned property that once served as Town Hall and a possible bridge design.
To begin, local businessmen Lenny Jordan and Ken Murphy of Lazy Hiker, LLC approached the board to present a lease agreement with an option to buy the property. Their goal: To bring Franklin its first microbrewery.
According to the proposed lease, the Lazy Hiker Brewery would offer “a tap room, a distillery, a restaurant, offices, or retail space.” Murphy spoke at the meeting in order to give the board a more detailed presentation of the business and the lease.
“Our main objective is to locate a craft brewery at the old town hall property. In addition to the brewing we plan to do on-site, we have two methods of sales that will come from that facility. First, we plan to distribute most of our product off-site. Not only in Western North Carolina but also in neighboring states. We would also like to make downtown Franklin a more vibrant destination by having a tasting room. It would make Franklin the southern end of the Asheville Ale Trail and by having a tasting room that is open to the public we are hoping to attract tourists who may have otherwise bypassed Franklin and headed on up the road to Sylva, Waynesville and Asheville where there are breweries already located,” Murphy told the board before going into detail on the current state of the building.
According to Murphy, a variety of repairs and upgrades would need to be carried out in order to make the building useable. Such issues that would be addressed would be leaks in the roof and drainage problems in the parking lot that have resulted in interior damage to walls that could eventually lead to structural damage. Some of the outbuildings need repairs and may end up being demolished.
“The town spends about $420 each month for utilities just to keep the vacant building running and make sure that nothing breaks down inside,” he said.
There would also need to be other interior renovations made in order to accommodate the components of a brewery like tanks and cold storage, but as Murphy pointed out, there would be upgrades made by his business that would need to be made by somebody eventually even if it wasn't Lazy Hiker, LLC.
After addressing the impending repairs, he returned to the benefits that would come to the town if they accepted the lease agreement.
“The direct benefits include the lease payments over the term of the lease; the document establishes sale terms for the property; there would be significant improvements to protect the town on the downside, and these are not just alterations that would be needed for a microbrewery. It's things like system upgrades. We need to install ADA compliant bathrooms. There will be savings of maintenance and utilities for the town, there would be a sales tax on the growing revenue stream and finally, there would be water and sewer fees that would go to the town's special fund for water and sewer,” Murphy said.
He also pointed to the additional jobs that it would create in Franklin. As an upstart business, local people could be hired to do the job.
The lease as proposed would run from July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2024, with the lessee (Lazy Hiker, LLC) paying $1,250 each month beginning in July 2015. In July 2016, the amount would increase to $2,500 a month and would remain that amount through the end of the lease.
The lease also requires Lazy Hiker to make improvements to the premises by Dec. 31, 2015 at a cost of a conservative estimate of $185,000. This includes improvements within the first 12 months totaling at least $25,000 for enhancing the long-term structural integrity of the buildings.
Included in the lease is an option to buy the property at a price of $325,000.
If the board voted to approve the lease, it would then go to an upset bid process. This would allow other interested bidders an opportunity to offer more money for the property. Town Attorney John Henning Jr. estimated the amount needed to upset the bid to be around $350,000.
“The intent of this process is to say to the public, 'here's your chance, we've got what we consider to be a pretty good offer so if you want to come in and bid more, we'll go into another round of upset bids,” he said.
Town Manager Warren Cabe reminded the board that if they were to allow the bid to go to the upset bid process, they still would not have to accept the Lazy Hiker bid at the end of the 10 days, regardless of whether there is another bid or not.
Alderman Barbara McRae made a motion to approve the lease offer with Alderman Joyce Handley seconding. The board voted unanimously to allow the offer to move to an upset bid process.
If no other bids are forthcoming by March 28, the board could vote at its April 7 meeting to accept or deny the offer. If the bid is accepted, Murphy and Jordan hope to have the brewery open by early summer 2015.
Bridge design chosen
Town Manager Warren Cabe presented to the board some bridge designs that were suggested by the Department of Transportation (DOT). In 2016, the DOT is expecting to begin construction on the older town bridge.
The new bridge would include a 10 foot wide path for pedestrians and bicycle riders, but as the Department of Transportation has indicated, they will not include a barrier between the path and roadway and since the board previously decided they wanted the barrier for safety purposes the board will have to foot the bill for the construction.
The option that Cabe suggested to the aldermen was one that includes an outer bridge railing with a 42-inch concrete wall between pedestrians/bikers and traffic and has a price tag of $36,000 – the least expensive of the other options offered by the DOT.
“This serves the purpose for what we want and the price is the least expensive option that we have. If you choose to do that, you have at least two years to set aside the funding and there are still some options out there where we may be able to get some additional funding,” Cabe said.
Alderman Verlin Curtis made a motion to accept the proposal for the bridge with Farrell Jamison seconding. The board voted unanimously to approve it.
The next board of aldermen meeting will take place at town hall on April 7 at 7 p.m.