HUDSON — Will voters be asked to weigh in on the Downtown Phase II project?
After hearing numerous requests from residents, some council members and the mayor say they will discuss putting an issue on the May 2019 ballot asking voters to share their view on the mixed-use development planned by Testa Companies.
Downtown Phase II is proposed to include 63 town homes, 80 multi-family homes and nearly 138,000 square feet of office space, along with a 300-space parking garage at the corner of Owen Brown Street and Morse Road.
Council will meet with Joel Testa, president of Testa Companies, on Dec. 18 to discuss the project in greater detail.
"I’m thinking, very possibly, that we’ll go out for a vote in May," said Council President Bill Wooldredge. "I think that’s something we as a council have to decide."
Wooldredge told his colleagues they would need to make a decision by the end of January.
"I think there’s a lot of merit to going out for a vote," said Wooldredge. "I think most people in Hudson will be very supportive and will vote in favor of it if we have a vote."
Council member Alex Kelemen (Ward 3) said the city had a citizens’ vote on the first phase of the downtown project (First & Main) and added he is open to doing that again.
"I’m comfortable in having some kind of a vote provided that we know what that outcome will be either way, before we do that vote," said Kelemen. "Is [the vote] advisory? Is it binding?"
Council member Dennis Hanink (Ward 1) said he was "not afraid of" a [citizens’] vote, and that the "bulk of the people" he has spoken with favor some type of development. Council member Beth Bigham (Ward 4) said she favors a public vote, and that council must be clear on what the outcome of the vote would mean.
Mayor David Basil said he felt a citizens’ vote was "necessary" once officials can provide more details and added he believed part of the success of First and Main stemmed from the citizens being able to vote on it.
"My biggest fear is that if we do not allow the citizens to express themselves on this, there will a cloud of doubt around this effort going forward that it was not embraced, not supported by the community," said Basil. "Whether folks were for or against First and Main, many of them could accept that it was the decision of the community and I think that is important for the long-term success of this development and for our community."
Wooldredge said council must decide whether the project will have apartments, and they need to see architectural renderings of the buildings slated for construction. Both Wooldredge and Basil said they oppose having apartments in the project. Basil added he favors examining the possibility of microlot, detached single-family dwellings.
Noting that the square footage of the project had been downsized "to a great degree," Bigham said she wanted to know what that reduction means for the revenue that would be generated by the project.
Council member Dr. J. Daniel Williams (At Large) said he felt council must address traffic issues related to the Owen Brown Street railroad underpass.
Council members and the mayor also clarified the primary purpose of Phase II.
"My interest in Phase II has never been the tax dollars," said Hanink. "My interest in Phase II was to provide more critical mass to ensure the long-term success of First and Main."
Basil noted Downtown Phase II is not a retail development, and reiterated the purpose of the project is "to support the existing downtown." He said it is designed to provide office space, as well as residential structures for empty nesters looking to downsize.
"This is a real gem and we need to do everything in our power to protect it for today and for tomorrow," said Basil.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.