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Consultant discusses proposals to revitalize Old Town district

By Bill Short
Flag City LogoMillington’s planning consultant presented proposals last week to the Master Plan Advisory Committee that are intended to revitalize the city’s Old Town district.
During the committee’s Jan. 22 meeting in the Baker Community Center, Charles Goforth said Old Town basically consists of the “triangle” formed by the intersection of Church Street, Navy Road and Easley Street.
Displaying an aerial photo taken in 1940 before Navy Road was constructed, he said the “heart” of the downtown area was on Easley west of the railroad tracks.
Although a 1962 photo revealed many changes, Goforth said Easley and Church streets were “still there.” Navy Road had been “extended,” but not all of it had been developed.
He noted that much of Easley was developed before the Shelby County government approved its first zoning ordinance in 1956. And the first portion of Navy was constructed like Easley, with the buildings “up on the street.”
Because most of the western part of Navy was developed under current zoning ordinances, Goforth said it has large setbacks and large areas between the buildings.
He recalled that, when Millington established the Old Town district in 2009, the city planned to adopt regulations regarding permitted and prohibited uses, signage, design review and landscaping. But he acknowledged that, until that is actually accomplished, existing regulations still apply.
Goforth said that is “important,” because the zoning is primarily B-2, which carries a 10-foot side yard and a 50-foot front setback.
“If anybody bought one of those buildings and tore down a building,” he said, “it wouldn’t be enough lot to actually build something on. So, we really need to address that issue.”
Goforth said the Millington Municipal Planning Commission is also concerned about what uses are permitted in the Old Town district.
“We don’t want to restrict development in there,” he acknowledged. “But you don’t want another car lot if you’re going to encourage business development.”
Goforth and the committee members agreed that the Old Town district should include all the commercial property in its B-1 and B-2 zoning, while excluding the residential areas.
He noted that money is currently available for “streetscape” improvements on Navy Road from Veterans Parkway west to Highway 51.
“It’s really important in our thinking that the streetscape improvements at least come all the way back to where Wilkinsville comes in,” Goforth said. “A lot of that can be done in the form of striping.”

He also noted that:
(1) A list of permitted uses, setbacks, parking and other requirements must be established for the Old Town district.
(2) Streetscape improvements should be continued on Navy Road and expanded to Easley and Church streets.
(3) Blighted buildings should be removed or rehabilitated.
(4) General cleanup should continue through “vigorous” Code enforcement.
(5) The city should do something to boost tourism.

Goforth concluded that, if Millington had a “big draw” in the Old Town district, that would help all of Navy Road.
“Somebody who would build an office building that would have employees who would get out and walk at lunchtime,” he suggested. “We’re talking to the property owners and trying to encourage them to do something in this area, because I think it’s critical for Navy Road that something happen here.”

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