By BROOKE WANSER
Franklin grew from two square miles in the 1960s to 41 by 2010, and during that time the population increased by about 21,000 people per decade.
And the city continues to grow, challenging city leaders to maintain services as well as the quality of life here.
Leaders from the city of Franklin on Tuesday evening listened to a presentation from staff about strategic growth and how to approach annexation.
Annexing involves a city or county incorporating land or territory in order to grow. State law allows for annexation at the property owner’s request only, or by referendum outside the UGB, or urban growth boundary.
In the PowerPoint presentation, a suitability analysis showed which land was most appropriate for possible annexation on a corresponding map.
Another slide showed locations on a map where requests about potential annexation had been made.
The city of Raleigh, North Carolina, was noted as a case study. In Raleigh, downtown high-rise residential structures pay off their infrastructure in three years, with a return on investment of 35 percent, while suburban dwellings pay of their infrastructure in 42 years, with a two percent ROI.
At-large Alderman Pearl Bransford said she was interested in looking at some type of combination of the two, in communities where people can work and enjoy civic and recreational amenities within walking distance.
The board agreed that growth is necessary for any healthy community.
“Most of us complain about the growth that we have,” at-large Alderman Clyde Barnhill pointed out. “We either grow or we don’t grow. We’re doing the things, I think, that are right.”
On the topic of growth, “We do not have an on/off switch,” Ward 2 Alderman Dana McLendon said.
“People who have a choice have found our community to be a desirable community into which to locate their families, their businesses, and their lives.”
“You either grow up or you fall down,” Ward 4 Alderman Margaret Martin agreed. “When growth started, we thought every subdivision was going to destroy us,” she said. “We do have problems, but we’re going to have to face them.”
Martin, a lifelong resident of the town, remembered when Franklin had 4,000 people. “It wasn’t really that great, y’all,” she said. “I’m afraid growth has a bad connotation, at least for some people. It’s really hard to say why we want to get bigger. We just want to get better.”
“Infrastructure is at the top,” Barnhill said. “We cannot outgrow our ability to serve and we cannot outgrow the infrastructure abilities we have now.”
One question posed in the discussion asked if maintaining the growth rate was important.
“Absolutely not,” McLendon said, as long as the board makes prudent decisions on maximizing quality of life.
Staff also analyzed possible areas for annexation, identifying land near Spencer Creek to the north, near Goose Creek to the south, and near Mayes Creek to the east, among others.
Current sewer service, emergency response, future land use, and road infrastructure were taken into account.
In the short-term, the city focused on the West Basin space near Old Charlotte Pike and Highway 96 West, and the Goose Creek area, including land to the east and west of I-65.
City Administrator Eric Stuckey said he believed the city would be able to handle the expansion as far as the sewer system, due to current plans for expansion and upgrades.
Mayor Ken Moore said he thought it would be harder for emergency services like fire and law enforcement to reach those in any annexed area. Ward 3 Alderman Scott Speedy wondered about what schools would service the areas.
When considering an annexation policy, McLendon asked about anticipated time and expense for any development. He pointed to the city’s limitations in only annexing property when property owners ask.
“It’s a little premature to consider an annexation policy,” he said, before knowing more details on potential projects and who would develop them.
“You have to be careful about the assumption that more people drives up more net revenue.”