Several variances were approved to pave the way for a market rate apartment complex at Franklin’s Interstate 65 gateway.

The complex, dubbed Gateway Flats, would have 163 units accessed from an interior corridor. There would be about 50 two-bedroom apartments, with the rest being one bedroom and studio units. Carports and 28 garage parking spaces would also be available for residents, plans submitted to the city show.

The property is east of the Fairway Lakes subdivision and west of the McDonald’s at Longest Drive and Paris Drive. The development would have an entry from Longest Drive and Paris Drive, with the main entry being from Paris Drive.

JART Properties, LLC, brought the development before the Franklin Board of Zoning appeals for special exception to allow multi-family housing to be built at the city’s gateway. Multi-family housing is one of the potential uses allowed for the land in the city’s comprehensive plan.

The developer was also granted variances to allow carports and garages at the site and to use an alternate orientation for the main entrance to the complex.

Both the special exception and the variances were granted unanimously.

A variance to increase the building height to 50 feet from the 45 feet allowed by area zoning was withdrawn before the meeting, said Joanna Tennell, the city’s senior planner.

City residents for and against Gateway Flats gather in Franklin City Council chambers for the boards of zoning appeals meeting on Wednesday, May 4. LEEANN DOERFLEIN | DAILY JOURNAL

Residents of nearby subdivision Fairway Lakes attended the meeting and spoke out against the development. They were concerned about traffic from the dense development degrading Longest Drive, which they also use to get to their homes. They were also concerned about having a four-story building in their backyard.

Another concern was that the complex isn’t the right thing for the property. From their understanding, the property was going to be for retail, restaurants and hotels.

“The Franklin demographics are changing, from multiple new housing additions, condos, townhomes and apartments that are already slated,” said Krista Sherman, a Fairway Lakes resident. “The demographics will attract the things that we want in this area besides multi-family.”

Mike Jarvis, an owner of The Links of Franklin, a market rate rental home community being built across King Street, shared similar concerns about the land use. While he supports what the property owners, Rob and Amy Richardson, have done for the community in developing the gateway, Jarvis said The Links owners would prefer to see a grocery store, high-end restaurant or a service-oriented business at the site, he said.

“We need to be aware of what we could be creating here,” Jarvis said. “Do we need homes? Absolutely we do with the amount of jobs here in Franklin. But location is key. We support the city in whatever this endeavor ends up being but … it is about what our people need.”

The target market for the development is young professionals, said Trent Newport, president of Crossroads Engineers and representative of the property owner. This type of housing is something that the city lacks, he said.

Newport told the BZA and neighbors that his clients have been trying to attract exactly the things that Jarvis and the neighbors want to see for the past five years. Eight inquiries for fast food restaurants have come in, as well as one for an auto body shop. All of those fell through, he said.

“We know there are concerns about what type of multi-family this would be and we’ve really taken that to heart as local owners. We want it to be a nice product, something that not only we are proud of, but also the community is proud of,” Newport said. “Over those years, we’ve had eight different (inquiries) that have walked away because of two reasons: lack of rooftops and the awkwardness of getting to this part of the site – that is not a concern when it is part of a multi-family apartment complex.”

Fairway Lakes neighbors discuss Gateway Flats outside Franklin City Hall after the meeting on Wednesday, May 4. LEEANN DOERFLEIN | DAILY JOURNAL

Unit pricing and a timeline for construction are not yet available, Newport said.

Mayor Steve Barnett publicly opposed an auto body shop locating at the property at a city council meeting earlier this year. He did not attend the BZA meeting or give input to the board on the decision, but he supports the board’s decision, he said.

“I personally think that this is the best use for this property,” Barnett said.

The development would fill a need for market rate housing for young professionals the city is seeking to attract to the city. Professionals who live there could fill job openings nearby and all up and down I-65.

“I would not be in favor of just any apartment complex,” Barnett said. “This is a high-end complex that Franklin is lacking.”

Barnett has personally spoken to developers about bringing dining and grocery stores to that parcel, but he had the same experience Newport described at the meeting. Grocery stores and high-end dining developers want to have access to a main road and that is not something that is possible at this site, he said.

A small grocery store is unlikely to come to the gateway because they won’t be able to compete with the big box stores on U.S. 31, Barnett said. However, restaurants are likely and there is still open land behind Culver’s and Taco Bell that will likely be home to restaurants in the future, he said.

Representatives from higher-end chain restaurants that city residents frequently say they want, such as Chick-Fil-A and Texas Roadhouse, have told Barnett the companies are more likely to open a location on U.S. 31, he said. The amount of homes the city has is not enough to attract those restaurants yet, so any plans for those restaurants would be years away, he said.