Franklin Town Council Turns Down Proposal for Whitmire Property Festival

Once again, the subject of what the town should do with the Whitmire Property was the focus of a discussion at the Franklin Town Council meeting. At the November regular meeting of the town council, Jimbo Ledford proposed an idea for a multi-day festival entitled Springtopia to be held on the Whitmire Property.

The proposed multi-day event held on the Whitmire Property would feature music, food, beer, arts & crafts, camping, other entertainment (such as yoga, disc golf, painting, kids’ activities, etc.) and local trades. According to Ledford, the target audience for Springtopia would be new visitors, AT hikers, and Franklin residents. The event would focus on local residents and business involvement as well as bringing in outside vendors.

The action Ledford requested of the town council was to vote to work towards a rental or lease agreement for use of the Whitmire Property for the event to include – the sale and consumption of alcohol according to North Carolina law and the remaining cleanup of property by the town or by the Ledford through cooperation with local vendors.

After considerable discussion on the feasibility of the event, the town council ultimately voted to reject the Springtopia proposal with a three to one vote, with Town Council Member Brandon McMahan opposing the vote and Town Council Member Adam Kimsey abstaining from the vote.

The event was created under the direction of Jimbo’s Event Planning and Cooperation Association (JEPACA) a newly formed organization “built on experience and knowledge.” The mission statement of the organization is “to aspire to form and build on existing relationships between town and county governments, their citizens and special interest groups through events, festivals and fundraisers to boost the local economy and promote growth and tourism in Franklin. The organization believes an event such as Springtopia would have a good economic impact on Franklin and the surrounding areas.

“Our goal for the outdoor event was not only to draw business to downtown Franklin, we also wanted to hold the event to conserve that piece of property and show that it can be used as a park and that it could bring revenue to the town as it is,” said Ledford. “We don’t need to get rid of it or sell it, when the town could make some money from it with very little work and put real money back into our local economy.”

Town Attorney John Henning, Jr. thought the proposal was overly ambitious to get together for the upcoming spring. In addition, he expressed his concerns about the amount of site preparation that would need to be completed to ensure it is a safe place to invite the public for such an event as proposed by Ledford. Henning pointed out that the town would be liable for any injuries that occurred during an event held on the Whitmire Property.

Mayor Scott suggested that Ledford consider other optional sites for the Springtopia event in the area that have already been developed such as the Macon County Soccer Fields at Industrial Park, the Cullasaja Park fields, Parker Meadows and the Carpenter building.