Thursday, May 16, 2013

Update on the conditions of the Salemtown Cottages SP

Some of the Salemtown Cottages design options
I got a call Wednesday from council member Erica Gilmore's office saying that the CM has been able to include the affordable housing option and the sound wall component that the community had requested for approval of the specific plan rezoning request made by developers of Salemtown Cottages. CM Gilmore's staffer also asked me if I would support the SP given the progress of the legislation. I responded that I would, indeed, based on the process of feedback in the two bona fide community meetings on the SP. Anyone who knows me knows that I have been critical of developer Mike Kenner in the past. However, based on Mr. Kenner's willingness to accept the stipulations requested in the process of public discussions, I can say without reservation that I support this SP.

The SP was approved with conditions (or recommended for disapproval without conditions) by the Planning Commission last Thursday, although it was pulled off the consent agenda at the request of opponents, which exposed it to some critical public feedback (bills on first reading are usually approved as a group without debate). I understand that there are some unqualified supporters of the SP as proposed (with or without a wall or affordable housing). They either were not present or chose not to express public favor for the bill after it was pulled off the consent agenda.

Arguments by the opponents of the SP who expressed themselves at the Planning Commission meeting are fairly easy to dispatch. Opponents claim that Mr. Kenner's cottage development is "too dense" and would create parking and run-off problems for Salemtown around Buchanan and 7th Av. With the current zoning, any developer can build either 18 or 20 units on the space where Mr. Kenner and company are proposing 24. A developer would not need the community's support to build attached duplexes as is. They would not be bound to build the detached cottages proposed in the SP. The opposition fails to grasp that reality. Rather than wasting their time digging in their heels, asserting that 4-6 more units on the lots would be "too dense", opponents should be trying to leverage space, parking and design accommodations from Mr. Kenner in exchange for slightly higher density.

The developer's request for 4-6 more units is not unrealistic, given urbanization. Demanding one detached single family home on each lot zoned for duplexes--as one opponent did during Planning's public hearing--is foolish and self-defeating. The community was at wiser moments able to get the developer to provide affordable housing and a sound wall. In my opinion, if they would have applied themselves pragmatically, they could have leveraged more compromises (the same argument applies to supporters, who woefully acquiesced to the proposal with no negotiation whatsoever). I was left with the impression that Mr. Kenner would have compromised to get what he wanted more than he did. The community's lost opportunities are perplexing to me.

I support the Salemtown Cottages SP with the conditions approved by Metro Planning and affirmed in CM Gilmore's legislation (as reported on Wednesday). Given its awkward layout due to the interstate, the northwest corner of Salemtown needs a thoughtful SP. I only wish that Salemtown would have made more of an effort to avail itself of the opportunity to inform the SP that currently we have before us.

1 comment:

  1. Informative. I agree with your talk about working for tradeoffs.

    What is affordable housing? If not specific to this project, what is it usually when contained in broader project not labeled affordable? For instance - are the homes smaller? Fewer amenites/cheaper construction? Does the builder or government provide a subsidized loan/purchase?