Residents ask for more separation from Franklin commerce park expansion

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FRANKLIN, Ind. — Several homeowners just outside Franklin city limits are asking for more separation between their properties and plans to expand a major business park near I-65.

Sunbeam Development Corporation is asking the Franklin City Council to approve the annexation and rezoning of 56 acres near the S.R. 44 and I-65 interchange. The newly-acquired land would be added to 491 acres already planned for Sunbeam’s I-65 Commerce Park, not far from the developer’s Franklin Tech Park.

If the annexation and rezoning is approved, several homeowners in the nearby Nyberg subdivision are concerned about the development bringing unwanted noise, light and traffic to their rural neighborhood.

“We’re used to seeing stars instead of warehouse lights,” said homeowner Melody Miller. “None of us are so naïve to think this development’s not going through, but I think there needs to be some special consideration for the families that have been established here for so long.”

The current plan being presented Monday night to the Franklin City Council includes several measures designed to create separation between the development and homeowners. Those include a five-foot tall mound with two rows of trees to block noise and light. The trees would be planted on top of the mound and at the edge of the property lines. The mound would be two feet higher than the three feet required by Franklin’s zoning rules.

Still, Miller and several neighbors fear a five-foot mound won’t be tall enough to block the noise and light coming from the light industrial park.

“We were just hoping for some kind of large berm to hide maybe some of the noise, the lighting,” she said.

Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett said he was sympathetic to Miller’s concerns.

“I certainly understand the concerns that neighboring citizens would have,” Barnett said. “I would probably have that same concern.”

At the same time, Barnett pointed out that Sunbeam’s development is expected to create hundreds of new jobs for Franklin as more companies move into the park.

“They’re going to invest over $350 million in that area over the next five to 10 years, so I believe for the City of Franklin, it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Barnett also pointed out that Sunbeam has agreed to keep traffic from the commerce park off neighborhood roads, and development will be kept a minimum of 25 feet away from homeowner properties.

“We’re a farming community, so I certainly understand all that,” Barnett said. “But I also believe in what’s best for the City of Franklin, and it’s my time to look out for the best for the City of Franklin, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Miller said if Sunbeam agreed to build a taller berm, possibly as tall as 15 feet, she and her neighbors would feel much better about the development plans.

“It would give a sense of peace knowing that at least we would be able to have some kind of normalcy as far as a residential and rural setting,” she said.

Barnett said more discussions on the specifics of the plan are still expected, but there’s no way to know what the outcome will be.

“Sunbeam has been very well, and they are concerned about the homeowners, and they do not want to take away from their enjoyment of life,” he said. “In two weeks, we have a council meeting that is open for public hearing, and that’s when that discussion will be had.”

The annexation and rezoning proposals are scheduled to be introduced to the city council Monday night. A vote is expected on August 2.

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