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Franklin Gov’t Sells Out Citizens to Developer & Equity Firm

Franklin Community Advocates has filed a new federal court action against the City of Franklin arising from its continued efforts to deprive its taxpayers and citizens of basic due process regarding land development in the City.

According to FCA’s lawyer, Joe Cincotta, “this Court action describes the extraordinary and favored treatment of private developers at the expense of the taxpayers and in particular FCA's many members who live near the formerly planned Strauss slaughterhouse project. One major fact in this case is the City's actions to instruct its litigation counsel to maintain that the slaughterhouse is proceeding even after Strauss has withdrawn from the project.”

Another glaring, problematic issue regards the adoption of TID/TIF 6, with virtually no input from taxpayers who could end up footing part of the $14 million+ price tag, while a local developer in turn made a 1600% profit on their recent land purchase. TID/TIF 6 overlays 155 acres+, that Bear Development purchased in 2016 for a total of $710,000, after being tipped off by members of Franklin’s government that this was an area the City would be focusing on for future development.

Bear purchased the Loomis Road property for less than $4500 per acre in 2016. The City then created TID 6, a tax incremental finance district which covered the land Bear purchased, and agreed to pay for all infrastructure in the area. Next the City rezoned the land from agricultural, to residential, and then finally to industrial, even though there is virtually no business, commercial, or industrial development in this western most part of Franklin, furthest from the freeway. Based on these developments, in total opposition to the wishes of the great majority of Franklin residents, in 2018, Bear was then able to sell land in TID 6 for $70,000 per acre, which they did to Strauss Brands.

The issue here mainly being, aside from the enormous profit Bear realized (as opposed to local taxpayers), the land could not possibly qualify for a TID, as it met not even one of the 3 criteria required:

  • The land was not “blighted” as it had previously been former farmland that was fallow for years, as well as protected wetlands, that have since been filled in by Bear

  • The land did not “require capital investment” in order to be developed, as a developer had already purchased the property, and roads and city sewer ran to the property line

  • The development would not “benefit the entire area” since it was a slaughterhouse that would provide only a handful of white collar jobs (Strauss has never employed more than 3 Franklin residents at a time), would potentially be a significant polluter, and would in fact detract from local property values (final Cohn Reznick property value study to be made public within the next few weeks)

Undeterred by these facts, the current Franklin Mayor, Planning Commission, and Common Council went forward with TID 6. But they still had to find a way to make the development appealing to Strauss Brands. The then President of Strauss, on two separate occasions, questioned the logic of putting a giant slaughterhouse in the midst of a quiet residential area of town, and asked outright in one email, “wouldn’t this lead to an uproar from residents?”

Again, Franklin’s government would not be deterred. The way to add value for Strauss would be by creating a special use permit (SUP) that had little to no limitations as to what could actually be done at the site, and no upward limit to the volume of animals that could be killed there daily. In addition, the SUP was then attached to the property itself, as opposed to the applicant (normal procedure) to make the development more sale-able and profitable for Insight Equity, the private Dallas equity firm that actually owns Strauss.

All of this was done in the face of great opposition from Franklin residents and tax payers, who finally began to catch wind of what was happening in late 2020. They quickly became up in arms and turned out en masse to question the logic and voracity of such seemingly foolish moves. The Mayor, and the Planning Commission immediately approved the SUP (one commissioner admitting they had not even read the material), but the Common Council initially denied the motion. That was overturned two weeks later, when, with no additional information, and at the Mayor’s urging, one of the Alderpersons flipped their vote to “yes.”

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