PHOTO: A representative from the developer talks to City Commissioners about rezoning the Oman property on Franklin Road. // Photo by Matt Blois
By MATT BLOIS
A plan to rezone a tract of land for a development on Franklin Road moved closer to approval during a Brentwood City Commission meeting on Monday night.
But the project probably won’t warrant a new traffic light at its entrance, an improvement that many neighbors say would make the road safer.
The commission voted in favor of a proposal to change the zoning of the land known as the Oman property from agricultural and low density residential to open space residential development. The commission will have to vote in favor of the proposal again before the final plan is approved.
The developer could already build 21 homes under the current zoning. The new plan also includes 21 homes. The main difference between the two plans is that the open space residential development would include a 150 foot landscaping buffer at the front of the property.
The developer has agreed to let the city build a bike and pedestrian trail in the buffer zone. Building that trail would require cooperation with additional landowners, so it’s unclear when it would be built.
Since the developer can build the homes under either zoning scenario, much of the discussion focused on whether the construction would warrant a new traffic light.
The development would be located directly across the road from the Fountainhead subdivision, and would have a new road aligned with Fountainhead Drive on the east side of Franklin Road.
A group of Fountainhead residents came to the meeting to ask the city commissioners to find a way to make the entrances to both subdivisions safer.
“Our problem is the northbound turn we all have to make on Franklin Road, particularly during peak traffic hours,” Fountainhead Homeowners Association President Ryan Sisemore said. “We’re here to talk about a solution.”
The city commissioners, a representative from the developer and several residents said that they wanted a traffic light at the intersection.
Commissioner Anne Dunn said that the new development was a good excuse to add a traffic light to the intersection.
“I’m all for it,” she said. “I think we ought to do everything we can—that was the sense I got from my fellow commissioners—to make this happen. The fact that there is a new development across the street gives us a very good reason to revisit this.”
However, it’s not easy to justify a new traffic signal.
On state routes like Franklin Road, intersections must meet a minimum threshold of vehicle traffic—set by the Tennessee Department of Transportation—to warrant a traffic light.
City Manager Kirk Bednar said that the number of cars using the intersection near the new development probably wouldn’t meet TDOT’s threshold.
TDOT uses nine different thresholds to determine whether a traffic signal is warranted. They take into account vehicle traffic, the number of intersections, pedestrian volume, crash data and other factors. That makes it difficult to say exactly how many cars would need to pass through the intersection to warrant a traffic light.
Bednar added that it would certainly be worth further investigating the traffic volume to see how close the intersection is to the threshold.
The developer is in the process of gathering more traffic counts to determine if a light is necessary.
Some residents expressed concern that the traffic counts wouldn’t include school traffic if they were conducted in the summer. School starts on Aug. 10. The developer should have time to conduct new traffic counts that incorporate school traffic before final approval.
If the city installs a traffic light it would likely attract more cars to the intersection. The city can include an estimation of the additional cars a new light would attract in its traffic counts.
If a traffic engineer determines that a light is warranted then the developer would have to pay for a portion of the signal based on the amount of traffic coming from the new development. The city would pay the remainder.