Cheekwood Golf sign

Officials from the Cheekwood Golf Club are “evaluating our options for the future” after the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted recently to rescind a lease agreement between Cheekwood and the city of Franklin. 

This effectively ends negotiations over plans for expanding the golf facility at Spencer Creek Road and Mack Hatcher Parkway.

After board members voted 3-3 Tuesday night whether to rescind the resolution that was passed four years ago, Franklin Mayor Ken Moore broke the tie in favor of rescinding. 

Aldermen had approved in September 2017 a golf course development on a 54-acre parcel of land south of Mack Hatcher and across the way from the current nine-hole course on Spencer Creek. In the time sense, development plans had evolved and lease negotiations had run aground at times.

“I’m the one that originally brought forth this resolution to rescind the resolution from 2017,” Moore said just before declaring his vote. “I brought this resolution forward in the spirit of trying to encourage the Cheekwood folks to go ahead and finish up what they’re doing and try to end this four-year process, which has taken longer than it should have.”

In a statement released by the Cheekwood Golf Club Wednesday, officials expressed disappointment at the decision, saying it was based on inaccurate information.

“The vote ended Cheekwood’s good-faith negotiations with the City of Franklin, even though both sides acknowledged that progress was being made,” the statement read. “We agree with Alderman Speedy that ‘this is a dangerous, slippery slope.’ ”

Scott Speedy, Ward 3 alderman who announced earlier this year he is not seeking re-election and will be stepping down after Franklin’s late-October municipal election, was most vocal in favor of continuing negotiations and finding a way to make the plan work.  

“It appears that from both sides, we’ve been making progress on the lease, and I think this would be ending the good-faith negotiation that’s going on,” Speedy said during aldermen’s discussion.

“This is like pulling the rug out from under the applicant before we have public hearings [on other related items on the agenda]. I think this is a dangerous, slippery slope to just flat rescind a resolution before we have four public hearing items.”

Joining Speedy in voting against the motion to rescind were Aldermen-at-Large Ann Petersen and Clyde Barnhill, each of whom thought negotiations should move forward. Vice Mayor Bev Burger, from Ward 1, recused herself from the procedure, and Alderman-at-Large Brandy Blanton was absent.

“I guess this project we’re looking at has probably been one of the more difficult we’ve had to deal with, and certainly we’ve been dealing with it for several years now,” Barnhill said. … [But] this is probably not a bad project for that piece of property. You’re not going to put anything else on it.”

Others, however, voiced concern over just what Cheekwood had planned to put on the city-owned property that currently is green space within a floodway. Aldermen who voted to rescind said the newer vision differs widely from a plan four years ago that proposed basically a nine-hole golf course on the south side of Mack Hatcher with an expanded clubhouse, pro shop, a driving range and the development of a junior golf academy. 

Alderman-at-Large John Schroer compared the current plan as something akin to Topgolf, an entertainment destination in Nashville and other locations known as much for its party atmosphere as its association with the game of golf. Cheekwood officials have refuted that description.

“I think this is not right for the location,” said Schroer, who has temporarily filled the seat held by Pearl Bransford until her death last November.

“It is not a golf facility. It’s a party facility that happens to have golf around it. It’s not going to be a junior golf place for kids to learn. It’s going to be a place for adults to go day-drink, night-drink and maybe hit a golf ball in between. That’s not what we need at that location.”

While signs indicate the deal is, indeed, done on this project, there is a slim chance it could be revisited. New members will be joining the board to replace not only Speedy and Schroer but also Dana McLendon in Ward 2 and Margaret Martin in Ward 4.

“That could start a process,” Franklin City Administrator Eric Stuckey said of the addition of new board members. “But a decision has been made by the board, so I just don’t know what will happen. I would suggest that likely if it was revisited that [interested parties would] step back and look at the whole thing.”

For now, Cheekwood Golf still operates at the facility it has owned on Spencer Creek Road for the past six years. It’s uncertain what will happen with the land on the opposite side of Mack Hatcher, but Stuckey said there’s no particular hurry.

“It serves a benefit today of just being green space,” he said. “It’s a nice buffer on the wastewater plant. It’s not without benefit as it stands today, but I can also understand someone might want to pursue other things.

“One of the things that came up in looking at this development, along with any other option, is it’s a very difficult piece of land to develop. Much of it is in the floodway, the floodplain. There’s a very large, significant wetlands on part of it. There’s a lot of challenges to that land. … It’s limited to what can be done there.”