Park Proposal Passes

The Ferrum Farmers Market will mark the entrance to what will become Ferrum Park. Supervisors last week voted to allow the Friends of Ferrum Park proposal to proceed.
The Ferrum Farmer’s Market will mark the entrance to what will become Ferrum Park. Supervisors last week voted to allow the Friends of Ferrum Park proposal to proceed.
File Photo

After a year-long battle, Friends of Ferrum Park’s proposal was accepted by the Board of Supervisors of Franklin County last Monday.

“Emotional rollercoaster is incredibly accurate.  We kind of expected the Development Department to turn it down because we knew it didn’t contain the amount/type of housing they were looking for,” FOFP Director Rebecca Saunders said. “Ultimately though, we knew that the Supervisors would be the ones to make the final decision and that we needed to show them that not only is there a very evident need for this space for our community, but that we have the community support needed to make these projects successful.”

FOFP was up against another proposal. Both had been shut down by the Development Department due to not having the desired housing numbers.

“There were audible reactions to the county’s desired use plans, as I think a lot of folks hadn’t yet seen their proposed housing map,” Saunders said. “Those kinds of real-time responses did a lot to show the Supervisors how unpopular that kind of plan is with our community.”

A total of 55 supporters showed up to the meeting, which lasted eight hours.

About a dozen community members spoke in support, and supporters stayed until the Board went into their private meeting at 8 p.m.

“The amount of community support shown at the Supervisor meetings over the last year, and especially those final two meetings before and during their vote, were likely the Supervisors’ deciding factor to support our park and housing initiative,” Saunders said. “I know it’s not often that the Supervisors go counter to the Development Department’s recommendation, and I think the impact of the community showing up like it did, made all the difference.”

When everyone met again the following week, the Board decided to accept the proposal.

“The first motion was to accept the Development Department’s recommendation to reject both proposals. I think at this point, a lot of folks in the room were really, really nervous,” Saunders said. “But it was immediately followed by a second motion to negotiate the sale of the property to Friends of Ferrum Park non-profit group. The motion passed unanimously 6-0, as Supervisor Nick Mitchell wasn’t present. But the room absolutely erupted in cheers and clapping. Many folks were crying, myself included, because this has been a labor of love for so many of us. I still get chills when I think about that moment.”

Over the course of the last year, Saunders said the non-profit board put in hours and hours of research and planning and utilized the connections they’ve made along the way.

Now, FOFP will finish the negotiating process with the county, and from there the focus is on fundraising.

“Finishing up negotiations with the county comes down to price and what restrictions they may ask for… We’ll be working with our lawyer and realtor to best assess their terms and work to reach an agreement we’re both happy with,” Saunders said. “Our fundraising includes hosting some great events at the property that will not only raise money to help us with fundraising but bring some really fun and interesting events to Ferrum. We’ll be pursuing multiple grant opportunities this year that will help fund many of our proposed projects.”

Each of the projects will be based on funding, but one of FOFP’s first project priorities is to find potential sponsors interested in sponsoring the cost of a Farmers Market pavilion and parking lot, as the market’s growth has already doubled since last year.

Long term, the non-profit group wants to pay the property off as quickly as possible.

“We can have a solid line of credit and the capital to begin financing the housing portion of our plan,” Saunders said. “We’ll be fundraising and applying for grants for each part of the park project, with priority going to projects as we secure the full funding.”

The land the park and housing that will border campus is 84.17 acres and has not been used since 1996.

“I’m hopeful that our timeline will be see majority of park projects completed within five years, and the housing will be based on demand. As long as there is interest in the housing we’re providing, we’ll keep providing it until we’ve reached our 40 unit (20 duplex) maximum,” Saunders said.




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  • J

    JMLApr 1, 2024 at 8:41 pm

    I truly appreciate the update on the meeting and acceptance of the proposal. The Editor did a great job covering the story and his follow up. Thank Your