HUDSON — Traffic flow and volume, as well as building design, are among the concerns cited by residents about the city’s Downtown Phase II plan.
The Planning Commission recently hosted a public hearing to discuss a traffic study regarding the preliminary plan for the project on Owen Brown Street and Morse Road. The commission will continue the public hearing at a special meeting on May 30 at 7:30 p.m.
"I’m very much concerned that we’re going to have a significant [traffic] problem," said Planning Commission Vice Chairman Thomas Harvie. He noted he believes Morse and Prospect roads will have traffic volumes similar to what is seen on Route 91 and Streetsboro Road.
Harvie said he wants an analysis that says "is this going to work or isn’t going to work?"
Testa Companies has been selected as the development partner for the project in September 2016. After Testa finished the concept plan in the spring and summer of 2017, parking and traffic studies were performed to analyze how the development would fit into the existing downtown.
Testa has submitted a preliminary plan to the commission calling for 90 multifamily units, 57 townhome 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.
The net density of the preliminary development plan is 9.1 units per acre in a net buildable area of 16.1 acres, according to the planning department’s report.
The plan reduces the number of residential units from 216 to 147, and focuses on townhome units instead of flats and adds more units with first floor masters; increases greenspace area along Owen Brown Street; and revises the street plan to reduce traffic at Morse Road and Owen Brown.
Joel Testa, president of Testa Companies, said his firm has worked with two hotel developers who have said the market is "not ready" for such a facility. Testa said they haven’t given up on the idea and will be discussing the concept with some other developers.
Testa noted his company is creating parallel parking set up on each side of Owen Brown Street and added the green space area on Owen Brown is designed to serve as "an amenity" to attract people to the area. Testa said that spot "could be a splash park," or an area where people can take their children or grandchildren to play.
Inga Walker, co-president of Hudson Heritage Association, said her group is "concerned about historic Owen Brown Street." She noted that her organization feels the plans are "creating another Main Street," and said, "we feel strongly that we do not need another downtown." Walker said she felt the buildings need to be structured so that they can be re-purposed over time.
Donovan Husat, another co-president of Hudson Heritage Association, said his group believes the "the proposed buildings that we have seen appear to be rather generic and somewhat cookie-cutter. We are looking for buildings that more accurately reflect the character of Hudson."
Resident Beth Innamorato said she believes the development will create "too much traffic," and said people living in the northwest part of the city will encounter congested roads if they try to drive to the other side of town.
Resident Michael Flynn said traffic traveling on Owen Brown Street under the railroad bridge will have to "work its way" through the new development. He said it will impact people who live on the north side of the city and added he felt the street layout planned in the development "is not workable."
Resident Curt Van Blarcum said he felt the railroad bridge on Owen Brown is "really, really dangerous" for pedestrians. He added that without improving the railroad bridge, a lot of people will be excluded from coming into the downtown area.
Resident Harvey Hanna told the commission they must be "very in tune with the parking needs and traffic flow."
Testa noted that creating the plans has been "a difficult process" with the variety of concerns raised by different interest groups.
"Juggling all of the issues and coming up with something that works for the majority of people — because it’s never going to work for everybody — has been quite the task that we think we’ve done very well," he said.
Testa noted he objected to statements that his company does "cookie-cutter designs," and added his firm has designed buildings in other communities that honor the history and character of those places. He emphasized they have not started architectural designs of the buildings.
Testa said they will work to try to resolve the traffic concerns that were raised.
Traffic study reviewed
The commission also reviewed a traffic analysis performed by TMS Engineers, which found that 419 new trips would be generated by the development between 7 and 9 a.m. on weekdays, with 305 vehicles entering the development and 114 exiting it. Between 4 and 6 p.m. on weekdays, the development would generate 426 trips, with 146 vehicles entering the area and 280 exiting. The analysis did not examine the volume currently generated by the Hudson City Schools Bus Garage, Hudson Public Power and Windstream Communications, according to Andy Comer of TMS.
If the development occurs in 2021, the engineer is recommending either maintaining stop signs on all approaches on Morse and Owen Brown with one lane in each direction or constructing a single lane roundabout.
Comer noted the roundabout recommendation is going to have "significant right-of-way impacts. So, [the] feasibility of that isn’t good."
Commission Chairman Robert Kagler said he feels the traffic study addresses issues that are "far above and beyond" the Downtown Phase II development, and noted he felt the commission should examine the recommendations that are relevant to the development.
Kagler said it’s the role of the administration and City Council to implement the recommendations.
"If these are recommendations that approval of the Downtown Phase II plan is predicated upon one or more of these recommended options being implemented, [the commission is] not in a position to guarantee that those things can be implemented," said Kagler.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, email@example.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.