HUDSON — City voters will have a chance in the spring to formally share their opinion about the proposed Downtown Phase II project.
City Council on Tuesday night voted 5-0 to place an issue on the May 7 primary election ballot that will ask voters to weigh in on the plan proposed at Owen Brown Street and Morse Road.
Since this will be an advisory election, the outcome of the vote will not be binding. Council member Alex Kelemen (Ward 3) emphasized that the ballot issue is an “opinion vote.”
“Once the vote’s taken, it’s still up to council to decide what we will do,” said Kelemen.
Council President Bill Wooldredge (At Large) said the project will encompass 419,000 square feet and will have about 70 villas with first-floor master bedrooms, about 20 condominiums, 60,000-70,000 square feet of office space initially, and potentially another 60,000-70,000 square feet later, and a parking garage with 250 to 300 spaces. It will have “minimal retail” and “no apartments,” said Wooldredge.
He said it was time to have a vote because officials are hoping to start construction in May. Wooldredge said he felt “very strongly” that he wanted to know how people felt about the project.
“I think a vote is the only way to get that feeling,” added Wooldredge.
Kelemen said he wanted council to soon discuss how much it wanted to spend on “educating the public” about the project. Although he had voiced objections to the ballot issue at the Jan. 15 workshop, Kelemen said he decided to back the ballot issue “with the understanding that it’s not an endorsement of the plan necessarily.”
“I’m still concerned we haven’t seen a lot of details and I think we should continue to press for that,” said Kelemen, who noted more information would help the public make a decision.
Council Member J. Daniel Williams (At Large) said he initially opposed the ballot issue, but said he changed his mind after hearing comments during the listening sessions in November.
“I am convinced that our current course of action with respect to Phase II is appropriate and a final result will be something like Phase I, a development that we can all be very proud of,” said Williams. “I am going to vote to support this and I think a majority of citizens in May will do likewise.”
Council Member Beth Bigham (Ward 4), who had also expressed concerns about the ballot issue at last week’s workshop, said she decided to vote in favor of putting the question before voters because it gives residents another chance to express their views.
“It’s my opinion that this is the best it’s going to get,” said Bigham. “If we wait six months, you’re not going to get any better ballot language.”
Williams encouraged residents to become “engaged” and “knowledgeable” about what they will be voting on. Williams said that the city has already spent about $10 million on Downtown Phase II and emphasized that those funds are anticipated to be recouped through a Tax Increment Financing agreement that the city has set up for the project.
“One of the ramifications, if the vote were to be ‘no,’ is that where do we get the money to pay this back,” Williams said.
Mayor David Basil noted much of the $10 million expended has been spent to prepare the land for the project. This includes moving the bus garage and salt dome off the land that is eyed for the project.
The language for the ballot issue underwent a slight revision following council’s discussion at a workshop on Jan. 15. Pending approval by the Summit County Board of Elections, the ballot issue verbiage is: “Should the City of Hudson continue with the redevelopment of the Downtown Phase Two area as a public and private development subject to final approval by the Architectural and Historic Board of Review and City Council?”
The preliminary plan for Downtown Phase II was approved in September 2018. The final plan still needs to be approved by Planning Commission and Council.
Testa Companies is developing the project.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.