Affordability vs. aesthetics: Multifamily developments face resident opposition
Two proposed multifamily developments came up against public concern about the character of the Hudson community during public hearings at the Hudson Common Council meeting Monday, June 17.
Neighbors of the two proposed developments, one on the corner of Hanley Road and Old Highway 35 and the other at Vine Street and Carmichael Road spoke against the rezoning of the parcels, citing concerns about traffic, safety, density and aesthetics of the areas.
Nick Vivian, who represented the two different developers for both projects, spoke to the city's need for affordable, market-rate housing. Currently Hudson does not have any market-rate housing options.
Many, such teachers and police officers, don't have the means to buy a $300,000 house in Hudson, Vivian said, but have a household income higher than allowed by the income-restricted opportunities.
"We want them to live in Hudson, we want them to have options in Hudson," Vivian said.
No decision was made on either development. The projects were sent back to the Hudson Plan Commission, which met June 18 after the Star-Observer went to press.
If rezoning is approved, there will be a significant amount of process before the final project is approved, Johnson said.
Hanley Road and Old Highway 35
The first development is 6.22 acres located at the northwest quadrant of Hanley Road and Old Highway 35. The site is located next to a cul de sac on Meadowlark Lane.
The developer has requested to rezone the land from RM-1 multiple family residential, which allows for moderate-density apartments and townhomes, to RM-2 multiple family, which allows for higher-density apartments up to seven stories. The proposal also requests amending the comprehensive plan from medium density to high density.
The proposal is for a 152-unit apartment building that will have rents ranging from $1,000-1,700.
Area resident Dwight Jordan said his biggest concern is safety and traffic.
"I've lived on that road for 41 years, I've lost multiple dogs and cats. Thank goodness it's not been a human," Jordan said.
He said he'd like to see the area remain forgotten, and turn into a park.
John Connolly asked council members to go out to Meadowlark Lane before taking a vote. The area, he said, is not built for the type of traffic a multi-family development would create. People would likely take short cuts through the housing area.
"Going 15 mph is fast in that area," he said.
Mike Younger echoed Connolly's request, saying he doesn't seen any positives that can come with the rezoning.
"If you lived there, what would your thoughts be?" he asked the council, "Would you want this to be in your neighborhood?"
Community Development Director Mike Johnson said traffic and access is a big issue that needs to be looked into, and the city is in the midst of that.
The city's traffic consultant Glen Van Wormer, of Short Elliot Hendrickson, said the city will need to work with the town of Hudson on access to Old Highway 35, and a number of things have to be researched.
He said any type of development in that area would increase traffic.
Council Member Randy Morrissette II asked for Van Wormer's recommendation as an expert traffic engineer.
"It doesn't make sense, does it?" Morrissette said.
Van Wormer said they need to look at if there is an alternative for access, and then ask the question of if they can put those cars there.
Council Member Jim Webber said he would absolutely oppose allowing opening up the Meadowlark Lane cul de sac for traffic.
Vivian said they are not proposing access through Meadowlark. The proposal is Meadowlark can be used as emergency access, and the development had offered to sign it as emergency access only and place restrictive barriers that would only allow emergency vehicles, he said.
Vivian said the project needs the outlet on Old Highway 35.
Though there isn't traffic data for Meadowlark Lane, Vivian said the trip volume from the Department of Transportation on the exit ramps from Highway 35 show the area has a lower traffic volume than other areas in the city.
The nearby park and ride is also a question with the project.
Vivian said the development is open to combining access with the park and ride lot.
Johnson said the DOT is willing to sell the site, but he doesn't have a price yet. If the city took over ownership, they would be required to keep the site for transportation purposes, though it would not have to continue as a park and ride.
The developer shares the concerns about safety, Vivian said.
"My point in sharing this information is this isn't a developer that's trying to jam in a project just to get a project done," Vivian said.
The council voted to send the rezoning proposal back to plan commission for more groundwork on Old Highway 35 and the park and ride.
Vine Street and Carmichael Road
The second project includes two parcels on the corner of Vine Street and Carmichael Road.
One 5-acre parcel is proposed to be rezoned to Planned Residential Development PRD-3, and the other 35-acre parcel to PRD-3 and B-2 general business.
PRD-3 is for predominantly apartment units. It has the same density as RM-2, but allows for more flexibility with including green space and single family homes.
The proposal includes single family homes as well as two 60-foot tall apartment building with 110 units each.
The council considered each parcel separately.
Erin Walejko said the development of the property came as no surprise, but she was surprised by the size and density.
"The proposal does not fit with the surrounding neighborhood," she said.
Walejko said she understands the need for affordable housing, but said the city needs to consider if this proposal is the right design for the area.
"It's our city, we have the opportunity to keep the river town charm and the friendly neighborhood feel," she said. "So I want you to consider does the need for multifamily living outweigh our desire to protect our Hudson aesthetic."
Jen Heriot said she was concerned about the amount of traffic the development would add to Vine Street. She asked for more planning in consideration before the project is passed. Vine Street should be addressed first, she said, not after.
Mike Pesavento said he has three daughters who will have to cross Vine every morning for school.
"Before you make your decision, think about my daughters and the safety of children," he said.
Pesavento said he doesn't want progress to stop, but the project is out of character with the area.
The council approved a motion to the first parcel, with proposed rezoning to PRD- 3 only, back to the plan commission with a focus on resolving traffic issues and taking a stronger look at pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
The second parcel generated more discussion amongst the council.
Vivian said the city staff did a fantastic job tracing the history of the property, which was planned for medium to high density residential and neighborhood commercial use in the city's 1993 comprehensive plan and single/two family and medium density residential in the 2009 comprehensive plan.
Vivian said the development is willing to work with the city, and asked for clear direction for the plan commission.
Developer Greg Johnson said the density has not changed since they first came to the council in February. He questioned why there was no discussion at that time.
"That's not the way to get my vote, to say I made a mistake in February," Webber said.
The development is required to pay for $1.5 million in improvements to address the traffic impact, including lane widening, turn lanes and signals. Vivian said that information comes from the city's experts who say those improvements will sufficiently address traffic concerns.
"You can agree or disagree, but those aren't requirements we're creating," he said.
Though he understands that won't fix everything, Vivian said the city shouldn't table a development because more needs to be done in a corridor.
Vivian said they want to be part of the solution.
"A development that does address Vine, a development that doesn't address Carmichael is a bad development for the developer and it's a bad development for the city," he said.
The question, Vivian said, is what does the development need in terms of density to financially support the city's requirements.
The developer is open to lowering the height of the buildings, though it would require them to be longer and take up more of the parcel. Currently the plan includes a lot of green space. Vivian also said the tree line on neighboring properties will hide most of the buildings.
Neighbors in the audience said their main concern was the density, not just the height.
Webber moved to have the plan commission reject the 60 foot height of the two buildings, and look at if it matches the character of the rest of the area.
Council Member Sarah Atkins Hoggatt questioned the appropriateness of restricting the project further than the city's current regulations at this level.
"They're following our guidelines and our rules, so who am I to just be like, well I don't like that so not that and not there," she said.
Morrissette said to reject any height is ridiculous. He asked instead to let plan commission talk it over and work with the developer.
"This project is going to help offset Carmichael and Vine, with good planning and good communication from this body to the plan commission we can develop something we can all co-exist with," he said.
Webber amended his motion to send the issue back to plan commission with a focus on keeping the height and appearance of the building congruent with the neighborhood. The motion was approved.