HUDSON — Though legislators acknowledged that the Downtown Phase II project still needs tweaks, they say they are prepared to vote on the development’s preliminary plan in the upcoming week.
Council is expected to vote on this first substantive step for the downtown project being developed by Testa Companies on Tuesday, Sept. 4. The project will 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.
If Council approves the preliminary plan, the next step is for the city administration to work with Testa on a financial agreement for the project. Once that pact is complete, the final plan for the project will go before planning commission and then Council for those bodies’ approvals. Each building in the development must also be reviewed by the Architectural and Historic Board of Review to ensure compliance with the city’s architectural design standards.
Council members spent nearly an hour and a half discussing the project in a workshop on Tuesday, Aug. 28.
Councilmember Hal DeSaussure (At Large) said Council will vote on general block layouts and deal with specifics later. For instance, DeSaussure said he opposed putting a median on West Way as it is shown on the current design.
"I think the planning commission did a very good job," he said.
One of several conditions attached to the commission’s recent recommended approval of the project calls on the city to: "design a north-south median or other restrictor in the least restrictive location possible to address through traffic at Owen Brown Street as accepted by the city engineer."
City officials have met with residents who live in the historic block of Owen Brown to discuss concerns those homeowners have about the project causing an increase in traffic volume.
"The big piece we’ve said to [the historic block residents] is that we’re targeting some type of improvement which will keep the traffic the same or less than you have today," said community development director Greg Hannan.
City Manager Jane Howington said the administration is examining a few different options for how to handle Owen Brown traffic flow and will present those choices to the planning commission when the final plan is presented.
Councilmember Casey Weinstein (Ward 2) said he was "satisfied" with the preliminary plan.
"I think we’ve come to a good place," added Weinstein.
Councilmember Alex Kelemen (Ward 3) remains concerned about both the look and placement of apartments that are planned in the northwest portion.
"I think it’s important to get that right," said Kelemen.
Councilmember Beth Bigham (Ward 4) said she would like "to get rid of the apartments altogether."
Mayor David Basil said that since the apartment structure will be "the focal point" as people look down two roads in the development, the developer should build town homes instead of apartments.
Bigham also expressed reservations about the length of time for businesses to set up shop in the development.
"If we generate relatively little income tax in the first four or five years, we still have expenses and that’s going to be tough," said Councilmember Dr. J. Daniel Williams (At Large).
Council will meet Sept. 4, at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall, 27 E. Main St.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.