A 60-unit affordable housing complex has been proposed in Franklin, but will depend on securing competitive state tax credits for low-income housing to come to fruition. The project has been proposed by Fitch Development, a group out of Charlotte that specializes in low-income housing projects throughout the state.
However, the financial feasibility of the projects hinge on state and federal tax credits. There is only a limited pool of tax credits available, and they can be quite competitive. There were 26 low-income housing projects that applied for the tax credits from the mountain region in the last round awarded by the state — but there were only enough tax credits to go around for about six. There is no guarantee the project proposed in Franklin will make the cut. The status of the application will be decided in August.
Paving the way for the project should the tax credits come through, Franklin town aldermen recently approved a special use permit for the complex, but not before some future neighbors of the complex said they were worried about the potential impact. “I’m real concerned about the situation,” Thaddass Green of Franklin told town leaders. Green was concerned about traffic, adding that it already “sounds like a racetrack” on Roller Mill Road where the complex would be built. Green also said that he is worried about his personal safety if an affordable housing complex was nearby. Patty and Vance Wall’s property is adjacent to the four-and-a-half acre tract where the housing would go in. “You can see from our deck where this would be,” said Vance Wall. He said a 60-unit complex as proposed would “really change life for us. It’s going to impact us majorly because this would no longer be just a residential, single-family dwelling area. It’s going to change the whole area.” Like Green, Patty Wall expressed concerns about the two-lane road being able to handle more traffic. “I just don’t know if this road can handle the amount of traffic this would bring,” she said, adding that Roller Mill Road is already dangerous enough as it is.
Hollis Fitch, president of the development company, said residents would be screened via credit and criminal background checks. Additionally, he said, internet-based cameras with views of the public areas in the housing complex would be installed. The program records up to 72 hours of camera footage, and Franklin police officers would be able to tap into the recordings through the Internet, he said. “We’ve found that to be a very good deterrent and a very good way to stop any type of problems that might happen,” Fitch said. Fitch also said that before building permits could be issued a required traffic study would be conducted. “I’ve listened to the neighbors and it seems there might be a traffic issue on Roller Mill Road,” Fitch said in acknowledgement, adding that the company would take whatever safety measures were recommended by the state Department of Transportation. He said that could mean adding a three-way stop or a traffic light. Roller Mill Road is an access into Westgate Terrace, a Franklin shopping center in the western part of town. Fitch said that one of the requirements for state funding was being within a half-mile of both a grocery store and drugstore, both of which are located in Westgate, hence the selection of this particular site.
The development would consist of three buildings with six entrances plus a community building and management office, a playground, “tot lot,” and sitting areas. “That’s going to be a lot of good folks who are going to have a good place to live at a price they can afford, and good, clean, suitable housing close into town at a good location,” said Mayor Joe Collins, addressing the concerned neighbors. “Maybe there will be some mighty good folks who will move in there, and that might ease some of the sting.” Alderman Sissy Pattillo emphasized that there is a current lack of affordable housing in Franklin for young professionals, though she also expressed concerns about future traffic impacts to Roller Mill Road. “We’ve cut through there and you really take your life in your hands,” Pattillo said about Roller Mill Road.