Hudson City Council candidates share thoughts on Downtown Phase II
Ideas range from waiting two years to moving ahead now
HUDSON — The three candidates for the City Council At-Large seat have differing views on the next steps for a potential Downtown Phase II project.
Nicole Kowalski said it's "no secret that I supported the Phase II project," leading into the May 2019 vote.
She noted the project "has evolved over time," and thinks the city should use citizen input that it received after the May 2019 vote toward any future plan for the project.
As a result, Kowalski said she's had people question whether her perspective has “flipped” on the project. She does not believe it has, and added it “doesn't make sense” to move ahead on a project that “was voted down and clearly needs to be revised.”
In a blog post, Kowalski noted the city hosted two public meetings after the advisory vote in May 2019, and said "numerous public comments" were offered during council meetings in 2018, 2019 and 2020, and councilors have obtained feedback from their constituents.
Kowalski said councilors should have a "clear understanding" of what the residents want to see happen with that land.
"Or, at the very least, what they do not want," she added.
She thinks now is the time to take action on Phase II.
"I believe that as a city, we are past the ideation phase and now it’s time for council to get down to business and do the job we elected them to do — give us the plan that is best for the city," said Kowalski.
Sherif Mansour said he wants to take a break from Phase II and focus on other matters because most who are interested in the issue "are hurt right now."
"They're not thinking about this as a rational thing," he explained. "There are too many emotions involved in it."
He is concerned the city will come up with a solution that is popular with one group of people, but not another one. Mansour added he felt if council can "establish a track record of a seven-person [body] that can work together …then we can be talking about what to do for Phase II in a meaningful way."
Mansour said he knows council feels it must act because the city is paying about $25,000 per month in interest on the Phase II land that it owns. Mansour noted he would rather the city in the next two years "pay the half a million dollars that it would cost in waiting rather than let this issue continue to divide the town."
When council turns its attention to the issue, Mansour said he wants to have "a lot people" involved in the discussions on what they want to see on the property.
"Too often we start with the building without thinking: 'What are we hoping to accomplish first,'" he said.
Sarah Norman said Phase II is the main topic that concerns residents she's spoken with. She wants "to see something that seamlessly connects" the other components that are already in the area.
"We cannot make it exclusively residential. We cannot make it exclusively commercial. We cannot make it exclusively multi-family homes. That's not appropriate for the space."
Norman said if city leaders go through "a process of community discernment, we will achieve the right answer. It has to be something that's great for Hudson in 50 years, not just great for Hudson today."
On the previous project, Norman said she felt the city "probably did not have adequate public participation" at the start of the process. She observed a large number of people mobilizing to oppose the last Phase II plan and added she felt the recent experience has raised community members' awareness.
"If we are willing to open up the questioning and make ourselves a little bit vulnerable … we're going to hear the people well and we're going to make decisions well that will benefit them all and even the ones who don't like it will be benefited."
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.