- Todd Kaestner has led real estate development for a large public company for over 30 years. He is a former district commissioner for Williamson County.
- Critical Development Rules: Never build inside a flood plain or modify a flood plain.
- Residents’ homes are at risk of flooding.
For about 18 months, the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BOMA) has been considering permitting a high-density development of 350 to 450 homes on Brownland Farm, a horse farm that lies mostly within the flood channel and floodplain almost surrounded by the Harpeth River .
Despite Franklin City officials consistently opposing the development, despite the planning commission rejecting the plan, despite the development conflicting with the city’s zoning plan, and despite hundreds of neighbors opposing the development, BOMA, inexplicably, simply cannot commit to it get through to deny this the development plan.
The zombie-like plan keeps being introduced and the BOMA continues to flirt with approval.
The BOMA apparently relies far too much on representing the developer’s engineers, although the engineers have a conflict of interest as they are hired and paid by the developer to find a way to close a deal.
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Keep these two crucial development rules in mind
It is undeniable that many properties downstream of Franklin that did not flood 20 or 30 years ago are now doing so. Obviously, many previous engineering decisions turned out to be seriously flawed decisions. Flood zones downstream from Franklin are increasing. Apparently, engineers have not properly considered and are not accounting for impacts on properties that are very remote from proposed development sites.
The increasing flooding downstream of the city of Franklin is due to ill-conceived development decisions hidden behind weak and biased engineering. This is not an opinion, history proves it.
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In this particular case, the developer has repeatedly bragged about increasing the property’s water retention capacity by 38 million gallons. He claims he has mitigated risk and even improved flood conditions at Brownland Farm. That’s a ridiculous claim
During the fairly mild March 2021 flood, the Harpeth River’s water velocity would fill a 38-million-gallon retention area in 11 minutes. I live on the Harpeth River. Most floods I have experienced last for days; 11 minutes is literally nothing.
In my development career I’ve learned a few simple, crucial rules:
- never build within a floodplain and
- never change a flood plain.
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Residents’ homes are at risk of flooding
I totally agree that the landowner has the right to sell his land. However, they knowingly bought the land at outside prices, and if they sell it at current outside prices, they will surely make a profit.
Not as much gain, of course, if the land were rezoned into a high-density development, but no landowner is entitled to a zoning just to increase their wealth. If the farm wasn’t in a floodplain, it would have been developed years ago.
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As this trend progresses, we will know for certain that BOMA doesn’t care a fig for the citizens down stream from the town of Franklin.
I can’t imagine the sadness, fear and anger I would feel if my house started flooding after this development. These are people’s houses.
As flood limits increase (note that they never decrease), residents face extreme risks, high insurance premiums, and permanent depreciation of their home, which is typically a family’s greatest asset.
Franklin’s board of directors needs to reassure the public where it stands
BOMA commissioned an independent engineering firm to review the civil engineer’s conclusions.
How many times have you seen one engineering firm publicly criticize the work of another engineering firm?
In my 35 years of development, I can’t think of a single example. The engineering community is a little fraternity, with companies all working fairly closely together. The reputation is guarded and public criticism is discouraged.
Therefore, I have no confidence that the confirming engineer’s opinion is correct. Also in the ongoing High Water vs. Engineers tournament south of Franklin, the Engineers seem to be the consistent losers.
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More than a few citizens have asked me if BOMA is corrupt, or if there are special favors or financial incentives, or if nepotism and favoritism are at play in relation to this proposed development.
I have said that I am not aware of any such corruption, but if I were with BOMA I would be very concerned about giving the appearance of corruption if this ill-conceived proposal simply will not die simply because BOMA does not agree with the Council of will follow its staff, its planning commission, its own land use rules, and the motions of the citizens who have the most to lose.
Todd Kaestner has led real estate development for a large public company for over 30 years. He is a former district commissioner for Williamson County.