Earlier this year, the group of downtown business owners let aldermen know they were not pleased with the first draft of a gazebo design being considered. So the town scrapped it, opening the door for individuals to offer alternative plans.
A grassroots community meeting was held March 31 to discuss concepts for the gazebo, which serves as a town stage during everything from political rallies to the Friday night Pickin’ on the Square music series.
Attendees had plenty of ideas about the future of the gazebo. Some had brought architectural plans, renderings and models for consideration.
“I got this idea when I did the set design for ‘Annie,’” Angelo Ramos explained, as he showed off his three-dimensional gazebo model.
Jerry Baird sat with his alternative plans near the back of the meeting room, explaining to attendees the significance of details incorporated into his design.
“This adds a little local flavor and a little local heritage,” he said, pointing out that the columns in his plans are a nod to the columns that once stood as part of Dixie Hall, a Civil War-era structure removed long ago to make way for the Macon County Courthouse. “I’m saying, here we are about 150 years since the Civil War. Don’t you think it’s time to pay a little homage to them?”
Richard Clark, of the Clark and Co. landscape and architectural firm, offered up the only plan from a professional designer. The plan focused on the use of space — featuring both a small and large stage, more than a hundred seats and a dance floor — and left the overall gazebo design open for input.
“I can plug in any architectural styles,” Clark said. “I’ve got all this on AutoCAD if we want to play with things, add some things in.”
Others attended the forum sans plans, but with input. They suggested simplicity and frugality. Several spoke in support of maintaining a local flavor in the design. Others focused on details such as stage lighting and improving the gazebo’s current sound quality.
“From a personal standpoint, I perform there with a band, a loud band, and the acoustics are not great,” said Adam Kinsey, of the local band Unaware Wolves.
The forum was hosted jointly by Venture Local Franklin and the League of Women Voters after the town aldermen declined to host such a meeting. Members of Venture Local intend to take the input and plans offered up at the forum to the board of aldermen for consideration.
Franklin Mayor Bob Scott isn’t sure how the aldermen will react to the community input.
“If I had an idea I’d tell you,” Scott said. But said he’s glad to see community members take the initiative in searching out alternative gazebo designs. He views the Venture Local forum as akin to the town hall forum he hoped to host before some on the board of aldermen nixed such possibilities.
“This is exactly the type of thing I was hoping to do before I got shut down on it,” the mayor said, adding that extra-governmental meetings could prove to be “more inclusive.” “Democracy can be dangerous, it can be ugly, but it can also get things done.”
Angela Moore, a member of Venture Local, said the gazebo issue is but a beginning. She hopes to continue the public forum concept in an effort to provide the town a venue for an open exchange of ideas.
“As long as there’s issues that people want to discuss, we want to keep it going,” Moore said.