Oakleaf Farms rezoning moves forward

Another annexation and industrial rezone east of Interstate 65 was forwarded to the Franklin City Council for consideration.

Oakleaf Farms’ request to annex into the city and rezone 42.43 acres on County Road 600 East to light industrial from agricultural was back in front of the Franklin Plan Commission this week after the commission was unable to reach a majority consensus last month.

The full, 11-member commission attended the meeting Tuesday, and voted 8-1 on a favorable recommendation for the annexation, and 7-4 on a favorable recommendation for the rezone.

Last month, two members were absent and the votes landed 4-5 and 5-4, for favorable and unfavorable recommendations on the rezone.

Two members — Suzanne Findley and Georgeanne Haltom — switched their votes to favorable recommendations this month after voting against a favorable recommendation last month. Chris Rynerson, Diane Gragg, Pam Ault and Janice Giles voted against the favorable recommendation this month.

The annexation and rezone is directly south of a 66-acre rezone and annexation of land north and south of the intersection of State Road 44 and County Road 600 East, which the Franklin City Council approved in May. The parcel is sandwiched between Umbarger Feed Mill and farmland at the edge of the Franklin buffer zone.

Oakleaf Farms partner Mac McNaught said the development is a natural progression for a property 1.2 miles east of I-65. There is no tenant yet, but the facilities are built with the needs of the market in mind.

Because the property is bisected by a gas pipeline, its use is limited. Instead of a large building, two buildings would be built on either side of the pipeline easement, McNaught said.

The proposal comes with several commitments from Oakleaf Farms, including commitments that would shield landowners to the east and south, including preserving existing fencerow trees when possible and planting at least 50 trees within 100 feet of the eastern property line, according to city documents.

People who live near the property expressed concerns last month that their quality of life would deteriorate with light pollution, noise and traffic from yet another industrial development. They were already concerned about growth that is in the works, so they asked the commission to consider holding off on the annexation request until the other buildings are completed and occupied.

The previous Oakleaf Farms annexation passed the city council in a 4-3 vote, with three members — Rynerson, Anne McGuinness and Bob Heuchan — voting against it for reasons similar to the concerns of nearby property owners.

It is unclear whether the annexation and rezone will turn out the same way, as two members of the city council announced their resignations this week. Rynerson said he would resign at the end of October due to a move out of Franklin. Danny Blankenship said he would resign effective Monday for health reasons.

Caucuses to replace them on the council have not been set yet.

A public hearing on the annexation and rezone is set for Dec. 6, and a vote on the proposal is set for Dec. 20.

If approved, the annexation would bring the total of industrial zoned acreage east of the interstate to more than 1,000.