HUDSON — The proposed Downtown Phase II project has generated vocal opposition from many residents at two Planning Commission meetings.
It was standing-room only for the commission’s meeting on May 30 and nearly every resident who spoke either expressed concerns about, or outright opposition to the project.
Oxgate Court resident Todd Zedak said: "Nobody has said anything about building nothing," which he said he thought was "a very reasonable course of action."
He added, "I haven’t heard any community group say, ‘Boy, this would be great for the town.’"
Zedak noted he believes "profit" is driving the project rather than the interests of residents.
East Streetsboro Street resident Gary Klein discussed concerns he had about the Owen Brown Street railroad underpass. The street is typically 19 feet wide, but that width narrows to 15 feet within the underpass, according to a city staff report. The engineering department is recommending a detailed review of the underpass area, including an examination of a proposed traffic signal at the underpass to determine how it will affect future traffic patterns.
"There is no way that the railroad is ever going to enlarge that bridge," said Klein. "What you have here is a big bottle and you’re asking to empty that bottle into a very thin neck and it’s never going to happen. The traffic in this community will just be unacceptable. It’s not too hot now, but it’s going to be even worse."
Besides concerns about traffic volume and the density of the development, residents have said they would also like to see the historic nature of the area preserved.
The commission has hosted two public hearings on the preliminary plan for the project eyed on Owen Brown Street and Morse Road by Testa Companies. After hearing concerns raised by many residents at both hearings — the most recent being May 30 — the commission decided it will continue the public hearing. A date has not been set.
The plan is on the agenda for the next meeting on June 11; however, Community Development Director Greg Hannan emphasized that the commission on that date will schedule a special meeting for a later date to exclusively address Downtown Phase II.
Testa has submitted a preliminary plan to the commission calling for 90 multifamily units, 57 town home units, about 146,800 square feet of office space, a 60-room hotel and 30,700 square feet of flex space, 60 percent of which will be office space, 20 percent retail space and 20 percent restaurant space.
Robert Kagler, the chairman of the commission, on May 30 said he felt the group needed time to review and digest the approximate 300 pages of information they had about the project.
"It’s a big plan," said Kagler. "It’s a complex plan and it’s a difficult to comprehend plan, and we’re just in the beginning stages of [reviewing it]."
Joel Testa, president of Testa Companies, said that a site plan dealing with use, zoning and density is now being reviewed by the commission. He said formal review of the architectural design of the buildings will occur after the site plan is approved by the Planning Commission and City Council.
The parking study performed by Walker Consultants recommends a 300-space parking deck and city staff is recommending that the developer provide additional on-street parking spaces, according to Hannan. He noted a parking committee will soon be formed to review parking issues.
Resident Gary Klein also encouraged the commission to work toward "maintaining the dignity and the historic significance of [Owen Brown Street]. It’s a key part of this community. It’s a key part of American history."
Brandywine Drive resident Eric Blemaster said the parcel eyed for the project is one that is "not utilized in a way that anyone would choose to utilize it today if you were starting from scratch."
Blemaster called the area an "eyesore" and said there was "nothing about it that’s historic or Western Reserve in character."
He said Downtown Phase II "will support" the First and Main downtown project.
"We need to keep the core of Hudson strong proportionately with the periphery," said Blemaster.
South Hayden Parkway resident Mary Bowersock said residents came to the city for the "schools," "family lifestyle," and "the quaintness." With the amount of traffic that may be generated by the development, Bowersock asked the commission to consider, "are we making it a safe and healthy downtown for our children?"
East Streetsboro Street resident George Roth said he believed "there’s something fundamentally wrong here" if the proposed development is expected to affect traffic in an area as far away as Oviatt Street and Route 303 and suggested the project should be voted on by the electorate.
Testa told residents that he and his team have worked on the project "every single day" for the past year and a half.
"I certainly don’t want you to think this is for profit," said Testa. "If it was up to me, I would do all housing here. It would be much more profitable and much less risk."
He emphasized that his plan was developed by following the contents of the city’s comprehensive plan. With Baby Boomers retiring and Generation X comprising a much smaller number of people, Testa said municipalities are facing fiscal challenges to provide services to their residents during the next two to three decades.
The plan is designed to provide office space and to spark interest from companies that would like to set up shop in the city, Testa said. He added that lofts, town homes and ranches "are bringing a lot of people" of all ages into other communities.
If the commission recommends the preliminary plan to City Council, Council would then have three readings and also conduct a public hearing, according to Hannan.
The city’s Architectural and Historic Board of Review will review the architectural design of the buildings at "numerous meetings" both this year and in early 2019, the staff report said.