Economic Development and the 2006 Comprehensive Plan

By Don Hebbard

On October 10, 2006, the Town Board adopted a Comprehensive Plan for the Town of Franklin. This document was the result of months of work by citizens and town officials.

The stated mission: “To guide future growth and development within the Town of Franklin in a manner that respects the town’s rural character, so that its unique sense of place is enhanced, its agriculture, historic, and natural resources protected; and its social and economic vitality ensured for years to come.”

A lofty mission statement at the time, which should still be applicable today.

The Comprehensive Plan covered many topics: land use, natural resource protection, agriculture and farmland protection, historic preservation, community aesthetics, traffic, recreation, community service, watershed protection, and economic development. Assessment of the situation in 2006 was documented for each topic, and recommendations were developed for the future of each area.

One recommendation was that the Town Board appoint a “Comprehensive Plan Sub-committee to spend time each month reviewing progress on the implementation of the Comprehensive Plan and coordinating efforts with other entities when necessary.”

Unfortunately, such a sub-committee was never appointed, and so, has never acted.

It is now 2016, ten years later. This article will address only the economic development section of the Comprehensive Plan. It asks: how have the recommendations proposed by the Plan been followed and implemented?

Below are the specific recommendations [Pg. 96 of the Comprehensive Plan] and a progress report:

  • Support small-scale industries within the town, such as dairy processing, small-scale tool and die, furniture production, research and technology, and industries supporting the arts and entertainment.
    In the last ten years, Franklin has added a few small businesses, specialty shops, and services like the Family Health practice. The Town has not developed any programs or promotions to encourage small-scale industry to start, expand, or relocate to Franklin.
  • Support small-scale agri-business based alternative fuel (bio-diesel or ethanol) processing in Franklin.
    The Town has not developed any programs or promotions.
  • Work with Delaware County Department of Economic Development to support existing farming operations in the Town.
    The 2014 Delaware County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan reported the loss of twenty dairy farms from 2007 to 2012.
    Recently we have seen other dairies sell out, with about fourteen Franklin dairies remaining.
  • Support the development of the Arts and Entertainment industry within the town, such as artist studios, antiques shops, bakeries, bed and breakfasts, greenhouses, restaurants, eco-tourism, and agri-tourism.
    The Town has not developed any programs or promotions supporting these areas. In fact, the Town Board recently proposed a budget that cuts spending on the Franklin Free Library.
  • Pursue a Main Street grant for the hamlet of Treadwell, or a joint application with the Village of Franklin, to fund Main Street building renovations within the Town’s hamlet centers to strengthen the economic base of the town.
    The Village of Franklin, not the Town, did apply and receive a Main Street Grant. Treadwell received nothing, and later lost their Post Office. Treadwell is solely dependent upon the Town Board and the Town did nothing to promote or maintain its businesses.
  • Work with the Franklin Chamber of Commerce to develop a Farmer’s Market.
    The Comprehensive Plan recommended the Town and Chamber of Commerce work with Delaware County and/or Cornell Cooperative Extension.
    When there was no action by the Town, Ellen Curtis started, and still manages, the Farmers’ Market with the help of Franklin Local and the necessary insurance is provided by the Chamber of Commerce.
  • Pursue the designation of the roads associated with the Catskill Turnpike as a New York State Scenic Byway.
    Designation as a NYS Scenic Byway would be a major boost to tourism and the related dining, housing, and service industries. There has been no progress in this area.
  • Support efforts to improve infrastructure that enables the town’s small businesses to remain competitive in the growing global market place.
    The infrastructure improvements proposed here are high speed internet and reliable cell phone service over the area. The Town did install a cell tower with one provider. A second cell provider is scheduled to be added to that tower. However, the Town elected to locate the cell tower on town property at the Town Sheds in order to receive the income. This valley location provides very limited service to the area. An additional cell tower at North Franklin provides limited coverage, but the majority of Franklin has no cell service. High speed internet is still unavailable for much of Franklin, although some fiber optic cables are now being installed.

This is the 10th anniversary for the Comprehensive Plan. What progress has the Board made toward implementing its recommendations for the Town of Franklin’s small-scale economic development?

Very little.

Meanwhile, the Board has effectively killed small-scale solar industry projects and discouraged residential and business solar by deciding to Opt Out (See A Bad Option for more on this topic.)

Perhaps it is time to dust off the Comprehensive Plan from ten years ago, appoint a Sub-committee of concerned citizens under the Board’s supervision, and actually work with other organizations toward revitalizing the economy of Franklin.