By Emily West
After withdrawing their plans for a Hampton Inn in downtown Franklin, it’s uncertain what will become of a project to place a hotel on the corner of First Avenue and East Main Street.
As discussed most recently with the city’s Board of Mayor and Alderman, Chartwell Hospitality decided not move forward with their plans for the boutique hotel. Right now, it is the location currently occupied by Metro Spy Shop, which rents out a piece of a building space on that property. The remainder of the lot sits vacant where Dotson’s Restaurant once operated.
But the issue still came forward because of a potential land text amendment the city would have to approve.
Originally, the architect said he would design the 100-room hotel to match the aesthetic standards for Franklin, which had already been reviewed by the Historic Design Review Committee. The biggest challenge for the project came in the form of building in the fringe flood overlay that blocks building of that kind on the land.
According to staff’s comments, the city’s Land Use Plan Conservation Design concept didn’t support this type of text amendment. It also noted that the conservation design concept encourages as little development as possible within the 100-year floodplain.
Flood maps in Franklin map out the hazardous space, but the city does have tight regulations in and around the floodway. City staff said its rules remain tighter than the Federal Emergency Management Agency, so residents and businesses receive discounts on their insurance premiums.
To best serve the project, planning staff had considered starting a Riverfront Plan to establish a vision for strategically located public spaces along the Harpeth River between Pinkerton and Bicentennial Park. They also wanted to include an evaluation of the impact of expanding the uses in the area.
“I think the study gives you the opportunity for other types of use that you may want,” City Administrator Eric Stuckey said. “It can help you understand how those might work around a flood area and it gives you a sense of what that might look like.”
But because creating such a plan would take a considerable amount of time, planning staff moved a text amendment forward instead. It added the uses of boutique hotels in the fringe flood overlay. The Franklin Municipal Planning Commission unanimously denied the text amendment, which brought it before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
“If we allow this to go through, this will open up the door for others to request in the flood plain,” Ward Four Alderman Margaret Martin said. “I never thought it would happen, but it’s happening all the time. But then when land became scarce, we find them recouping the land and wanting to build. I would like to see us not build in the floodplain. There may be other ideas, but we are walking on real thin ice.”
Aldermen informally agreed that they would like to see a Riverfront Plan to see what the possible uses were downtown and along Hillsboro Road. They said it would help them in the future with other developments proposed and to determine what uses fit in the floodplain.