It was the leading topic at my August Ward 3 Forum, and it isn’t even in Ward 3. Here’s why I think we need to hit “reset”
At the last Council Workshop (Sept. 12) I asked that the process for development in Phase 2 come back to City Council for a discussion, since the first time it was on our meeting horizon was an executive session (not open to the public) scheduled for mid-November. Members present agreed it was a good idea to discuss the process again in an open meeting.
My request comes out of my recent Ward Forum, where there were many questions and concerns, and a proposal I made that had some traction with the group.
It may be too late to make any serious changes, despite resident concerns. One of the many questions about Phase 2 was “do you think the City will have an agreement in place with Testa (the proposed developer) by the end of the year?”
My answer was “no,” given what I know about the number of meetings we have scheduled, both private and public. But Assistant City Manager Sheridan’s answer was “yes.”
There were a many questions raised at my meeting, answered here in bold with what I know. (Disclaimer: I am not speaking for the City of Hudson, nor City Council. I may not be correct, it is subject to what I understand and believe)
1.) How much has the City spent on development, including purchase of Windstream, building a new bus garage, relocating the salt dome, relocating HPP, etc.? I am not sure. I asked staff for this number a few weeks ago, hasn’t been presented yet.
2.) What will the developer pay for in terms of infrastructure improvements, parking etc, and can these be made public? Still to be determined, and yes, I think the costs will be made public, but perhaps after the agreement is signed.
3.) How will traffic on Owen Brown be handled to preserve the neighborhood. Also TBD.
4.) Who will pay to pay to mitigate the extra traffic on Prospect and other feeder streets? Likely the City.
5.) Concerned that architectural standards will not be the same as Phase 1 and town character? Phase 1 was built as a frame and character built around it. We will get to the outside “skin,” right now we are focused on what will be “inside” (apartments, townhomes, offices, retail) because that drives viability and costs and returns.
6.) Can’t we build a park/ rec center/nature preserve in the Phase 2 spot and build the development out at the old YDC? We are too far down the road for that, too much has been invested. The question now is how will we make the development work. Phase 2 was not as high on my priority list as other projects, like commercial development at YDC, but City Council as a whole voted to move forward with Phase 2 as a priority. The vote was taken, the decision has been made, and I am committed to making the Phase 2 project a success both financially, since tax money is going into it, and with the community, that has to live with the results. It doesn’t mean I buy into the whole premise.
The Million Dollar Question (though the number is far higher, to be sure) is “Why so much Density?” Why don’t you build something that is familiar to us, that mirrors what we have instead of this plan?
The City’s answer, if you follow the website, is “it was in the 1995 and 2015 Comprehensive Plans, and in the long range plans for Phase 1.”
My answer at the Ward Forum was “It was in the 1995 Plan and 2015 Plan, so what, it’s not subject to change now?” It’s not some kind of Scripture, handed down from on high. I sat on 2015 Comp Plan committee, and I can tell you the community input was minimal, as you would expect on a conceptual plan for the next 20-30 years. This current proposal is reality, and it is coming up fast. There is a great deal more community input now, doesn’t that count for more than a vision from 20+ years ago?
I suggested that we go with what we know on the residential portion of Phase 2. Instead of the housing density proposed by Testa for the Morse-Owen Brown corner, we open that parcel up for another Villas of Hudson type development, right next to the existing Villas. Realtors tell me the Villas is a hot property, people know it, they like it. Those attending seemed supportive of that proposal. It is still more dense than single family construction, but about half the density of the proposed apartments and townhomes. There is room for another Villas sized development there, along with the “boulevard” treatment of Owen Brown between Morse and the railroad that flows into commercial/office south of Owen Brown. A Villas-type development clearly attracts empty-nesters, but may not attract young professionals.
I question the premise on the website that somehow Hudson has to accommodate young professionals. The site calls this part of “workforce development” when most of this proposed “workforce” will come home every night and leave their income tax in their work city rather than the City of Hudson. The idea that Hudson will create a nightlife and attractions equivalent to those of Cleveland or Akron that is so much a part of a “live-work-play” lifestyle is ludicrous. We don’t have to be all things to all people.
Is it too late for a “reset?” City Council may not have the opportunity for serious discussions of the direction. Council and the public may have to wait until after an agreement is drafted later this fall. If that is the course of action, it is too late. If you are concerned about the direction of Phase 2, come to a Council meeting and tell us to keep talking about this publicly.