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Franklin residents to help design new neighborhood

By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer

Macon County residents have the opportunity to help design the first New Urbanist traditional neighborhood in Western North Carolina — a neighborhood that will rely on mixed use and smart growth development practices to create a 22-acre housing complex just outside downtown Franklin.

Developer Tim Ryan had been building typical gated mountain communities when he began thinking about relocating his father to Franklin. Finding suitable housing proved harder than expected, as Ryan’s father was interested in an in-town location but a relatively small house.

Ryan began piecing together land in a wooded area about five blocks north of Main Street with the idea of building another gated community. But then, something happened.

“He got hit by the New Urbanist bug,” said Ben Brown, a local resident and smart growth advocate.

Ryan met renowned architect Bill Allison, a champion of the New Urbanist movement that encourages walkable communities, good design and environmental sensitivity. Ryan was a quick study, talking to experts on the issue and reading books and doing Internet research.

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“He just inhaled all the information,” Brown said.

When Ryan was ready to get to work, Franklin Town Planner Rebecca Crawford introduced him to Brown, who has conducted design charrette’s — work sessions that encourage public input — nationwide. One of Brown’s current projects is working with a community in Mississippi to rebuild following the complete destruction of Hurricane Katrina.

Together Brown, Ryan and Allison organized a three-an-a-half-day charrette to solicit community input to design what has become known as Sanctuary Village.

“The idea is to plan the entire community as much as is possible,” Brown said.

In an introductory presentation to the charrette Monday night, 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. Beyond that — well, it’s up to Macon County.

Planners will be working throughout Wednesday and Thursday as the charette wraps up, with public presentations scheduled for 5:30 p.m. each night. Thursday’s presentation will be of the final plan. The public is encouraged to drop by the Burrell Building on Main Street at any time to see the plans, ask questions and get involved.

“This will be an exciting week, and we’ll end up Thursday with a lot of questions answered,” Ryan said. “We look forward to the process.”

“This will be the biggest new neighborhood in a long time and this is an opportunity for neighbors to put in their concerns and their hopes for enhancing the whole community,” Brown said.

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