HUDSON — The planning commission is poised to vote later this month on a large portion of the residential component of the Downtown Phase II project.
After reviewing the plan for three hours, the commission on Monday decided to delay action until its next meeting Aug. 26.
Commission members discussed concerns about the number of parking spaces and how traffic flow will be handled on Owen Brown Street. Residents on Owen Brown are concerned about their road being used as a cut-through. The city planning staff said the traffic flow issue would be addressed in the next phase, but some commission members and residents said they want that issue handled now.
Commission chairman Robert Kagler also said he wanted more information on the new features of zero lot line houses and a pocket neighborhood that were introduced by developer Joel Testa of Testa Companies.
"I would rather take action at a time when I feel it’s right, and I don’t feel it’s right ... I’m not there yet," said Kagler.
The size of the project was reduced in response to residents’ and council members’ feedback that was collected after nearly 52 percent of people voting in a May 7 advisory election opposed the project.
The commission OK’d a preliminary plan with 143 residential units in July 2018. The final plan has 101 units, with single family detached and attached homes, townhomes and condominiums. The commission is now reviewing a plan to build 81 units north of Owen Brown. Testa will later submit a proposal for 20 condominiums and then a third application for the office/retail portion south of Owen Brown.
"There will be enough variation that the development doesn’t feel like a cookie cutter development, but it has sort of a cohesive master plan feel to it," said Testa.
Traffic flow on Owen Brown Street
Community Development Director Greg Hannan said his staff had spoken with council and residents who live along the historic block of Owen Brown about how to handle traffic flow. When the commission adopted the preliminary plan, it ordered the city to design a traffic restrictor in the "least restrictive location possible to address [cut] through traffic at Owen Brown."
Hannan said a consultant’s report showed the 81 units to be built will generate less traffic than that same area does now.
"There is not a need for a traffic restrictor yet," said Hannan. "When the next buildings come on line, that traffic restrictor needs to be designed by the city engineer."
Two new roads will be built off of Morse for the development. Hannan said traffic going south on Morse could turn on to either street instead of Owen Brown. He added this is expected to reduce traffic volume at Owen Brown and Morse.
Commission member Michael Chuparkoff said, "It does not make sense … to route southbound traffic on Morse Road through … a residential neighborhood."
He said he favors putting a north-south concrete boulevard on Morse and keeping Owen Brown "still usable" between Morse and the railroad underpass.
Parking issues, stormwater management
Testa noted, "for the most part, all the homes can accommodate four cars … and then there’s adequate on-street parking for spillover." Chuparkoff asked whether more parking spaces could be added, noting the plan seemed "a little tight."
With detention basins planned in some areas and wetlands that cannot be built on in other spots, Testa noted, "There’s really not a lot of land left."
Kagler noted the preliminary plan contained on-street parking spaces on the two newly created roads off of Morse.
"They’ve been removed from this [final] plan and I see that as a real drawback," said Kagler. "…People will be parking on the street and it will be crowded and congested."
Hannan said water in the area currently flows into Brandywine Creek with "no water quality treatment and no stormwater management detention."
Bob Warner of Environmental Design Group said the first phase will install a stormwater system that intercepts the water running off the development, puts it through detention ponds and cleans the water before it’s released into the creek.
Kagler, however, clarified the "pre-existing storm sewer-related problems on Owen Brown Street are not part of this project."
Residents give feedback
"I urge you to reject this plan," said resident Jessie Flagg Obert.
"The residents of Owen Brown surrounding that creek already have significant flooding problems," said Obert. She said if more houses are built, "we’re going to have a bigger problem."
Resident Todd Zedak said he wants to see 60 pocket homes throughout the entire site.
"What we’re trying to do is create a beautiful area for posterity," said Zedak. "And that’s not what’s being done."
Jill Flagg, who lives on Owen Brown, said she is concerned that the Brandywine Creek stream enhancement is not happening now and added the traffic flow issues needed to be handled in the first phase.
Rebecca Benson Leiter questioned how a plan could be approved that does not include the Windstream property. Hannan said the city is negotiating with Windstream to buy the property at the corner of Owen Brown and Morse.
Ron Nixon said he knows people who want to move into the proposed homes.
"This is going to enhance the community," said Nixon.
Judy Conner said there is limited access from the west side of town to Route 91, adding if drivers cannot take Owen Brown to 91, the intersection of Route 91 and 303 would be backed up.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, email@example.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.