Developer of the two lots on the southeast corner of 6th and Garfield, Robin York, and his engineer Roy Dale (also a former Metro Council member) met with 8-10 Salemtown association members on Friday evening, and the meeting was mostly surprises for me. Mr. York said that he wanted to hold the meeting after he learned of a "negative blog" about the development.
First, the email that was sent by the association last week announcing this meeting mistakenly reported that Mr. York was planning on building "Baltimore brownstones". The developer told us that he had no idea where this information came from. While he had thought about a "Cape Cod style" on the front, his plan for MUN rezoning was not restrictive enough for the Planning Department because it allowed commercial along with residential, so they want him to change to RM15 (medium-high density residential, intended for multi-family dwellings at 15 units per acre) or RM20 (medium-high density residential, intended for multi-family dwellings at 20 units per acre) rezoning. Consequently, he has no design, and any future designs are contingent on the rezoning.
Mr. York added that he was planning on using Hardy board siding, which is also not in keeping with a brownstone design (masonry). Another developer working on a new build at 5th and Coffee St. volunteered the information that the perception that Mr. York's development was going to be brownstone came from him, when he was thinking about building "Baltimore brownstones". Mr. York said he assumed that he had to use Hardy board because most of the the neighborhood was plank siding, and thus it would fit with the character. I responded that the community plan calls for a diversity of residential designs. Hence, I did not personally believe he was bound to only one type of siding.
Mr. York told us that he was new to the process and did not have a lot of answers. Consequently, he relied on Mr. Dale to do a good bit of of the talking with the group. Planning would require the townhouses to face both 6th and Garfield and Mr. Dale showed us a preliminary floor plan that would have a driveway to the back parking lot entering from 6th (the lots are blocked from customary alley access by another property). They intend to fit 5 2-story units and parking on a 130'x100' parcel (2 lots). The units would be priced to sell for around $200,000 each.
The owner of the properties was not present, but another association member criticized him for not taking care of his lot. She noted that the grass had been extremely high last summer. (Since the meeting another SNNA member commented on my Google+ stream that this corner is "a constant source of irritation" for her compared to how well the vacant lot right across 6th is maintained).
After the meeting, Mr. York approached me and expressed surprise at how involved our community was in the planning process. He told me that he had never seen such interest in developments as he has seen in Salemtown. I emphasized to him that we work hard with our council member and with Planning to come up with a community plan and that we prefer that developers strive to be consistent with the priorities put forth in the plan.
In sum, it looks like this situation is developing and unclear, and we should keep a close eye on what happens in the planning process as it moves toward consideration on February 23.