The Continuing Saga of Brownland Farm Development

brownland farm
Photo: Brownland Farm Horse Shows Facebook

A little over two years ago Michelle and Robin Anderton, who own the land where the much-loved Brownland Farm horse arena and training ground is located, decided to sell the property after Sissie Anderton, who started the farm with her husband Mack, retired. The news of their desire to sell to a developer didn’t go down well with a number of people in the community, and the tale of all they and the developer have gone through to try to turn the property into a housing subdivision has been long and drawn out. Yet, the new Board of Mayor and Alderman recently voted to approve the applicants’ request to rezone the 234 acres from Agriculture District and Civic Institutional District to Planned District, which finally moves the issue forward.

What is interesting about this vote is that the Planning Commission, the Franklin city staff, local residents, and a number of organizations tied to conservation have consistently voted against or spoken out against the project. This is because they feel that two items have not been successfully addressed by the developer –  that a significant amount of the acreage being developed is in a flood plain and that the design proposal does not fall within the guidelines of Envision Franklin.

After volleying back and forth for more than two years with the developer over these issues, the previous Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to defer action on it in October 2021 until after the election, turning it over to new blood. The new blood voted to move the project along at the first reading in March with a 6-2 vote. The second reading, and opportunity for the public to make their feelings on the subject known, will take place later this month.

The Andertons are sure to feel some relief, as they have been the recipients of some pretty despicable behavior by those who oppose the project, including threats. Michelle Anderton has spoken out a number of times about the verbal attacks and trespassing they have had to endure during this process.

“We care too much about this community to choose somebody who’s not right for this project,” Anderton said at the October 2022 meeting. “I truly believe these gentlemen are fully committed to making sure this development is good for Franklin.”

The Andertons are working with Greg Gamble of Gamble Design Collaborative and Kevin Estes of Land Solutions Company, who are the designer and developer, respectively.

Opposition will surely be at the podium at the next BOMA meeting to address the issues with the Board. When the proposal came before the Board in October 2021, more than 30 people made their feelings known.

“I do not feel they have fully addressed the flooding issue,” said one resident of a development that is located down river from the proposed community after the recent vote. “They keep saying that flood waters will not affect us, but I just don’t feel that is true. The water has to go somewhere.”

Dorie Bolz, president and CEO of the Harpeth Conservancy, has repetitively questioned what will happen as the Harpeth River flows through the property during heavy rains. At the October 2021 meeting, she noted that the proposed development will be completely surrounded by flood waters with no emergency entrance or exit because the proposed manipulation of the land to handle the excess flood water will not be able to handle what is coming through, an issue also raised by city staff.

The Envision Franklin issue is somewhat related. The document, which is a multi-year land use plan developed as a guide for future development, calls for the property to only contain a “conservation subdivision,” which means fewer homes using less space. Multi-family units, which are part of the proposal, are not a part of Envision Franklin. Conservation development also does not allow building in a 100-year flood plain.

The developer has made a number of concessions, cutting the number of units being built so no flood plain land is used for housing is one of the concessions. But until April, the outcome is not certain.

Brownland Farm, located near the intersection of Hillsboro Road and Mack Hatcher Memorial Parkway, has been the home to many noteworthy equestrian events for almost 60 years. Until the issue of development is resolved, the Andertons will continue to run the farm. They have even added some new updates, including new footing.

The Brownland Farm website notes, “Regardless of the outcome with the farm’s sales contract, all the 2022 shows will take place at our current location. 2023 will either see a new facility or current facility capital improvements.”


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  1. I would be interested in seeing where the majority of the opposition is coming from in your next article. In the Monticello subdivision where I live, I have seen very few signs or chatter opposing the Brownland farms proposed development. This is the community most impacted by the proposed Brownland development. The vast majority are in either in favor of the development or not concerned about it. Furthermore, the developers have addressed a nagging issue of developing the Eatherly property. The Eatherlys created an eyesore when they chose to deforest the acreage they owned of old growth hardwoods and turned it into a hay field almost 20 yrs ago without consulting the city or county. Never once have I seen mention of the community park proposed by the developers as part of this project for the undeveloped area. That to me shows what Ms Anderton says about the developers: they have bent over backwards to make this a showcase use of land and addressed the needs for affordable public housing. Particulary since this should be a luminary site on the Hillsboro/Franklin corridor entrance.

  2. I live in Monticello and most of my neighbors are opposed to the development. I would be interested in learning where this “vast majority” is? The only poll ever taken by the HOA was opposed to everything but the park proposal for the Eatherly property. Personal gain does not outweigh the risks to others and this is not the best use of the property.

    • Hi Kathy, We have not deleted any comments on this story. Please let us know if you do not see your comment.

      • Thank you. My apology. I now understand that when a comment is under review it does not necessarily get removed, that it is just in queue it is not deleted. You may delete the duplicates that were posted.

  3. There is much oppostion in the Monticello neighborhood. They have been very vocal at all the public meetings. I in some way feel sorry for the Anderton’s and the City…they have been misled by a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Citizen’s safety should come before a landowner”s rights to build whatever he wants to build. This is a safety issue for the community.

  4. The very words used by the Harpeth Conservancy, “proposed manipulation of the land” is spot on. This property will have to be manipulated to conform to the developer’s plans. The Harpeth River goes where it chooses. The 2010 flooding in this area bears this out.

  5. There are other viable and SAFER options for this property rather than this big payout one. Hundreds and hundreds of families in the surrounding community built homes that were not in a flood plain…but now they are. We would not have been allowed to build in a floodplain. So why is this large development being allowed on a parcel of land, horseshoe shaped, surrounded on 3 sides by a river? The developer claims he has done this type of work before but that is false. His other developments near the river are not like this at all. He’d like to flip the script and be the victim as this has drug out so long and he’s made so many changes. Twice voted NO by City Planning Commission, twice voted NO by City Staff and Engineers, other experts determining grave concerns…even with his changes…BOMA doesn’t owe them anything, do they? The real victims will be any who can’t get out during a major flood event, lose property and have flood damages, insurance costs, home value costs and many of the residents are elderly and on fixed incomes in these surrounding neighborhoods. This entire project does not make sense. Can we please just have common sense government?

  6. In response to Mr. Hitchcock there were over 2800 area residents who signed a petition in opposition to the Brownland Farm development. Numerous residents of the Monticello neighborhood, the Fieldstone Farms neighborhood, Cottonwood, River Landing, Montpier, Old Natchez areas and the Harpeth River Conservancy have all spoken at the numerous public hearings in strong opposition to this large development in a flood plain. Despite the alterations to the development plan that had to go back through review of the Franklin Planning Commission a second time, the professional staff of the Franklin Planning Department and the Planning Commission still do not recommend approval of this project. The “affordable housing” mentioned early on by the developer is a distant memory. Building in a known flood plan is a bad idea and the attempt by Mr. Estes to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear is bad for current residents and for the unknowing buyers to whom he wishes to sell homes.

  7. “The continuing saga of Brownland Farm”…proposed high density development surrounded by floodwaters should finally end April 26th at City Hall. BOMA has continued to kick this dangerous high density development down the road instead of voting on behalf of the public trust to protect the public’s safety. The landowner’s rights end where the public’s safety begins. The landowners say they “believe these gentlemen, Greg Gamble and Kevin Estes, are fully committed to making sure this development is good for Franklin”. Overwhelming evidence from experts including the Franklin Planning staff recommendation to DENY this rezoning and development plan says otherwise. The landowners have the right to develop their land, but not when the development plan endangers the public’s safety. Over 500 houses are now in the floodplain that were NOT in the floodplain when they were approved by the city and county. FEMA just announced that flood insurance rates have been raised and those now in the floodplain will be paying higher premiums as they worry about the ever increasing fast, furious, frequent flooding events endangering them and their homes. This article appears to be a public relations piece for the landowners and the developer. They should heed the public service announcement, “Turn Around (from this dangerous development plan) and DON’T Drown your neighbors.”

  8. UNBELIEVABLE that our Board of Mayor and Alderman continue to crap all over its constituency! They are demolishing any square inch of green space for the almighty dollar! Has anyone checked their bank accounts for payoffs? I think we’d find the truth behind their violation of the original Envision Franklin pact. Shame on the Andertons for selling out and causing even more congestion, traffic accidents and fatalities as well as increasing the horrible transformation of what was once a beautiful town with a great quality of life into the most congested miserable place to drive, visit, and live in! They should just leave if they don’t like natives’ attitudes as we don’t want people like them in our town anyway since they obviously don’t care about their friends’ and neighbors’ quality of life or in preserving the rich history and prior beautiful landscape of Franklin. We natives live here for a reason – to get away from the big city. Stop building and people will stop moving here and causing all of us to pay higher taxes for new schools which we don’t even use or need! The commute time; gang activity; and robbery, homicide, assault, and traffic fatality rates are the highest in history! I am ashamed of our government and of our city. Our government cares nothing about historic preservation, conservation of wildlife and ecosystems, the increasingly poor quality of life, the 300+% increased drive time, and/or the prohibitive cost increases affecting its constituency. I have lost all hope in our current Mayor and Alderman and will help their opponents to my fullest capacity in the next election. Our entire country is sinking into despair and I used to have hope that Franklin and Williamson County would actually listen to its constituents’ needs and wishes – boy, was I mistaken! Franklin will soon be as congested and dangerous as NYC! Time for anyone who doesn’t want to be a victim to move elsewhere. All wildlife in Franklin and Williamson County will be a distant memory that children will have to visit a zoo to see – I feel so sorry for the animals who are being displaced and killed and for children growing up in a concrete jungle.I AM DISGUSTED WITH THE ALDERTONS, THE MAYOR, THE ALDERMAN, GREG GAMBLE, AND KEVIN ESTES! Greg Gamble and Kevin Estes obviously don’t care about the residents of this city and county and should not be welcomed here as they only care about $$$. I will make it my life’s mission to discourage anyone wanting to work with them and discourage anyone who plans to move to our once lovely quaint city!

    Someone asked about why there are not more comments on this site. This is test to see if freedom of speech is legally honored by this site. I will be watching and prepared to take action should my comment be removed.

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