Franklin zoning board OKs townhouse variance request

A planned townhouse complex is one step closer to construction after a Franklin zoning board recently approved a variance.

The Franklin Board of Zoning Appeals last week approved a development standards variance request from Redwood USA LLC last week to eliminate a 25-foot buffer yard requirement. The property is bounded by Upper Shelbyville Road, Eastview Drive and Hurricane Road, and is adjacent to several different industrial zoning districts.

“The basic reason we’re here to begin with is the odd shape of this land of record. There’s a lot of (zigs) and jags and jogs, and it really creates a hardship when there’s back-to-back buffers to make effective and productive use of that area,” said Gregory Thurman, acquisition manager for Redwood.

According to meeting documents, Redwood said a significant existing condition of the proposed site is a Federal Emergency Management Agency Floodplain, which requires very specific limits on its impact and affects the methodology of how stormwater management occurs for any development of the property.

“This has residual impact on both the economics of any proposed development of the site, as well as on the developable acreage of the site as over a third of the site acreage is non-buildable,” the company stated in the meeting documents. “This site challenge is something that will be present for any potential use to the site and is not specific to the Redwood request.”

The developer still intends to meet all required landscaping and building setbacks.The Board of Zoning Appeals approved the request as long as all remaining buffer yard requirements are met.

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The 31.5-acre parcel of Upper Shelbyville Road and Hurricane Road was rezoned to residential multi-family in April 2023. The development is expected to be a 156-unit, townhome rental community with four to eight units per building. Each dwelling unit should be at least 1,200 square feet with two beds, two baths and a 2-car garage.

The rent will likely range from approximately $1,600 to approximately $2,100, previously said Russell Brown, an attorney representing Redwood at a plan commission meeting last year.

Brian Alsip, attorney representing Hurricane Road Industrial Development Inc. which owns two buildings on East View Drive, argued against Redwood’s variance request at last week’s meeting. He said buyers who purchase land are responsible for knowing the rules of setbacks when they acquire property, and his clients do not want to have issues with Redwood’s future residents because of a change in setbacks.

“(The businesses I represent are) noisy, and they want to avoid having neighbors come in and start getting noise complaints about something that they’ve been doing for a long time,” Alsip said. “Therefore, they want the setbacks to be honored to keep the facilities there as far away from residential areas as possible. They’re not moving, they’re there. The people coming in have the responsibility to stay back.”

He also said Hurricane Road Industrial Development wants to see mounding or fencing put in to get additional space.

“The takeaway folks is this: Hurricane Road Industrial Development, they’re objecting but they’re doing it because they actually want to be good neighbors,” Alsip said. “They don’t want there to be problems. They want that additional space in between the back door of a neighbor and the noisy (businesses) that are already occupying that property.”

Thurman rebutted Alsip’s comments, stating that 25 feet will not reduce any noise complaints and the company is used to operating near state routes, highways and big box stores that are open 24/7.

Other projects

Alongside the Franklin project, Redwood is also building a development in Whiteland. In December 2022, Redwood was approved to build up to 165 townhome units on 40.45 acres of land near the Whiteland Road and U.S. 31 intersection. The apartment complex is expected to occupy 34 of the 40 acres of land and a commercial area is planned on six acres along Whiteland Road. Rent is expected to be between $1,600 and $2,000 a month, Brown previously said.

The Daily Journal reached out to Redwood for details on the timeline for the Franklin and Whiteland projects. A representative for the company said they couldn’t respond to the questions by publication and can provide more details once the company is ready to share this information publicly.

In total, Redwood will have three projects in Johnson County. Alongside Franklin and Whiteland, the company started leasing its 100-unit development in Greenwood at Smokey Row Road and State Road 135 in 2021. At Redwood Greenwood, there are seven floorplans currently starting at $1,999 for a 1,294-square-foot unit.

The company also has 16 properties that are either in development or are built out in Indiana.