Franklin — The city's common council is attempting to show developers that the city is "open for business" by purposing hundreds of acres of land as a business park.

The council rezoned approximately 504 acres south of Oakwood Road and west of 27th Street to "business park" zoning at its meeting Nov. 1.

"This says we're open for business," said Alderman Steve Taylor, whose district includes the new business park. "I think it's important that we do continue to move in this direction."

The intent of priming this area for a new business park is to draw large firms to Franklin, including companies looking for places to build corporate headquarters, and set the stage for development.

Higher-quality ideas

The decision to rezone the area was tabled at an October council meeting, because aldermen wanted clarification on how the new business park would actually have "higher standards" than the existing park.

Planning manager Joel Dietl explained these standards for the council at the Nov. 1 meeting and noted how the city would have more control over the activity that goes on in the business park.

An example of increased control is of a new special-use category of "flex space" that will be included in the gateway area of the business park, or the area along 27th Street and Oakwood Road. Under this special-use designation, developers would need to go through additional steps to gain approval.

"It's a building that's going to be an empty shell," Dietl said of the "flex space" concept. "The person building that building probably doesn't know all the tenants – may not even know any of the tenants that are going in that building."

Such a facility might have a warehouse, distribution, and storage component, but "each tenant has to have an office component," Dietl explained. "And then everything else that's allowed in the business district would be allowed in that building."

In these buildings, the amount of "flex space" activity would be capped at 25 percent, and the city would track the percentage of flex space in the building. If a tenant were to use more space in the building as flex space, moving the total area of flex space over 25 percent, the council would have to re-approve that use.

By setting aside uses like warehouse, distribution and storage, the city can better ensure that the activities happening in the business park are not excessively loud or disruptive to nearby residences and the rest of the city.

Other uses, such as junkyards and animal processing facilities, will be prohibited throughout the entire business park.

Certain restrictions or stipulations on building uses like these and other high design standards for the area are meant to create a "high quality" business park.

Moving forward

Franklin officials say they will to continue to work on establishing this area as a place to benefit the city. City officials and staff will carry on conversations with interested developers and likely start addressing infrastructure needs of the area, as well.

"This is a major step," said Aaron Hertzberg, the city's economic development director. "We've spoken with many in the development community in the area, and we're looking forward to working with folks to move this project forward."

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