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Franklin’s new urban neighborhood plan complete

By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer

Preliminary master plans and architectural designs for Franklin’s new mixed-use, smart growth style development were presented last Thursday night (July 17). It was the first chance local residents and government officials had to see what the future looks like for the 23-acre housing complex to be located just outside downtown.

The development will be the first of its kind in Western North Carolina, say those involved in the project.

“There are people who are doing New Urban style developments but not within walking distance of a historic town,” said Ben Brown, a local smart growth advocate.

The plans were conceived during a three-day interactive meeting, or charrette, held to solicit community input about the design that has become known as Sanctuary Village. In an introductory presentation to the charrette Monday night, architect Bill Allison showed audience members what they had so far — a plat survey marking the lay of the land and a few trees that they already knew they wanted to make particular efforts to save.

Over the course of the next three days, Allison and his team went to work drawing out a neighborhood that prominently featured green space, sidewalks, narrow streets to calm traffic, shared driveways, single family homes, and small bungalows and condos.

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Upon unveiling the plans, developer Tim Ryan thanked the audience for its participation in the process.

“It’s very rewarding to see all of you here,” Ryan said.

Before Sanctuary Village, Ryan built typical gated mountain communities. It wasn’t until he began thinking about relocating his father to Franklin and discovered that suitable housing was harder to find than expected, that he hit on the idea of an in-town development.

Ryan began piecing together parcels of land in a wooded area about five blocks north of Main Street with the idea to follow along the gated community path, and create a suburban type community. Along the way, Ryan learned of the New Urbanist movement, which encourages walkable communities, good design and environmental sensitivity. He studied up on the idea and decided it was the right way to go.

“The opportunity to create true communities is a wonderful gift,” Ryan said.

Ryan had already met architect Bill Allison, who has worked on several similar projects nationwide. Upon discussing his new idea with Franklin town planner Rebecca Crawford, she in turn introduced Ryan to local smart growth advocate Brown. Brown, who was just coming off holding a design charrette in Asheville, was enlisted to help coordinate the one that would lead to a plan for Sanctuary Village.

In developing the plan, the idea was to incorporate rather than isolate. For now, the development includes 145 small lots with the largest house measuring 3,000 square feet in size. The smallest homes, gathered in “cottage courts,” boast amenities such as community firepits that aim to encourage socialization. Along the streets to the neighborhood, trees will separate homes from the street.

“We’re going to not disturb as much as possible,” Allison said.

What vegetation must be removed will be replanted, he said. Approximately 40 percent of the development is reserved for green space.

Homes are designed to reflect mountain architecture with arts and crafts style. However, those who choose to locate their homes in the neighborhood may select their own builder so long as they adhere to architectural guidelines. Even with the guidelines, different builders will help contribute variety.

“This is not a subdivision,” Allison said.

Now that plans have been presented to the community, Ryan must work together with civil engineers to review the neighborhood’s design. With a little more finesse, the plans will be ready to present to town aldermen in September, Ryan said. Lots are expected to be ready for building by spring.

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