Voters support charter change to allow new sidewalks in downtown Franklin

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published May 12, 2021

 Franklin Village Council member Pam Hansen cuts the ribbon to celebrate eight new streetlights in downtown Franklin during a ceremony in late April.

Franklin Village Council member Pam Hansen cuts the ribbon to celebrate eight new streetlights in downtown Franklin during a ceremony in late April.

Photo provided by Karen Couf-Cohen, Karen Couf-Cohen Public Relations

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FRANKLIN — The votes are in, and Franklin residents made it clear last Tuesday that they’re fans of sidewalks in the village downtown.

In a special election May 4, 56% of voters approved an amendment to the village charter, which until now has prohibited the Village Council from planning the addition of new sidewalks in a residential area without going to residents for a vote. Now an exception has been made to allow for new sidewalks without an election — but specifically along Franklin Road and 13 Mile Road.

The council proposed the amendment to get around the charter stipulation and continue with plans to install sidewalks downtown as part of an ongoing streetscape renovation.

Without the amendment, the Village Council would be in violation of the ordinance.

“With the passage of the charter amendment, council is now allowed, when and if they choose to do so, to install sidewalks on Franklin Road and 13 Mile Road,” Village Administrator Roger Fraser said in an email. “The charter amendment would still disallow the construction of new sidewalks in residential areas. Whether or when to construct new sidewalks and how to design and pay for them are separate decisions for the Village Council to make in the coming months.”

The issue has had the Village Council split for years, with some in favor of sidewalks and facade upgrades and some opposed, citing a desire to preserve the character and historical accuracy of the village center.

“The streetscape plan was developed with input and compromises over a two-year period. Input was sought from all villagers, the Village Historic District Commission, all stakeholders, and numerous designers and engineers,” Village Council President Pro Tem Brian Gordon told the Eagle in an earlier interview. “The plan was approved by your Village Council and continues to have the support of the council.”

Village Council President William Lamott has been on the other side of the debate and invoked the ordinance to stop the sidewalk installation.  

“More white concrete in our rural, historic village is not my first choice, but 628 of 1,117 voters approved an enabling charter amendment, so we will begin the process of putting sidewalks on Franklin and 13 Mile roads,” Lamott said in an email. “I hope that, unlike the village center streetscape, we can think outside the box and find a way to create safe walkability and keep our unique character. Time will tell.”

On April 29, Village Council contractors and members of Main Street Franklin celebrated the installation of eight new street lamps with a small ribbon-cutting ceremony. The installation of the lighting, a part of the overall streetscape renovation, was approved by village voters in November of 2018.

During excavation of Franklin Road drain sewers and electrical conduits, contractors found an iron base of an old street light, indicating the village may have had streetlights decades ago. A “Light Night” celebration will likely be planned for later this summer, according to a press release.

The second phase of repaving Franklin Road was set to begin Monday, May 10. The road will be subject to the same detour of northbound traffic as last year. Southbound traffic from 14 Mile to 13 Mile roads will be maintained throughout the end of the project.

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