Now that we’ve made it to a New Year — and a new decade, too — what’s in store for Franklin County? We offer up three wishes for 2020.
Countywide broadband. Since the Franklin County Broadband Authority approved a master plan for improving broadband internet last August, progress to bring high-speed internet to communities that are currently unserved or underserved continues.
With a $650,000 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, Franklin County announced plans last year to install 30 miles of fiber optic lines in the communities of Hardy, Windy Gap, Burnt Chimney and Summit View Business Park through a partnership with Shentel, Mid-Atlantic Broadband and Western Virginia Water Authority. Five fixed wireless towers also are planned for communities, too. Unfortunately, it’s not enough and more funding is necessary to keep the project going, according to Steve Sandy, the county’s director of planning and community development.
While there’s noticeable progress being made, it’s important to not lose sight of the end result. To get more attention in the way of funding, Sandy urges residents to contact Gov. Ralph Northam’s office and their state legislators to ask for more funding.
Affordable housing at Smith Mountain Lake. Plans for apartments and single-family homes on a 33-acre tract near Westlake Corner continue moving forward, albeit slowly.
In October 2018, the Franklin County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a rezone and special-use permit allowing construction of up to 250 apartments and 25 single-family homes near Westlake Corner. However, late last year there was a request to delay road improvements around the project after the original developer, Westlake Holdings LLC, sold half the property to Westlake Apartment Homes LLC. Because of that, the project had to go before the county’s planning commission and to the board of supervisors for approval again.
Now that the project has been given the green light, Alexander Boone, a representative for Westlake Apartment Homes LLC, said the first phase of the development will be two, 24-unit apartment buildings. “We are planning to build just as soon as we can get a building permit,” he said at the supervisors’ meeting Dec. 17.
Career and technical education at Franklin County High School. Efforts to discuss renovating and expanding the high school’s overcrowded career and technical education facilities currently are at a standstill.
The CTE programs are housed in a building known as West Campus that was once an apparel factory, across the street from the high school. Because of the limited space, the number of students who can participate in these classes is limited. We hope Franklin County can find a path forward to help meet this key demand for our teens.
The plan last year was for supervisors (the board has the power to allocate funding for the project) to determine how much money the county could reasonably afford on renovations and get together with the school board by the end of 2019. Optimism remains high that these groups will come together in the New Year and come up with a viable solution.