Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Public hearing on "no dogs" house SP proposal is less than one week away, and still no word from the developer on any changes

Recently I wrote about the notice sent out in Salemtown about the rezoning request for the "no dogs" house on 6th Av. N. Since that time the association got to meet with the primary in the project, Clay Haynes, to ask questions and make comments. The request is to rezone to "SP" or "specific plan," which allows the community to have influence over the project.

The business meeting was generally productive. I expressed my concerns about stormwater run-off, which has been a problem between 5th and 6th where I live for as long as I've lived here.

I also followed up with the this email to Salemtown Neighbors president, Freddie O'Connell:

I do not have any reservations about the dwelling design and I am grateful that he is making every effort to preserve the 115-year-old structure. I agree with those who make preservation a priority for this development.

That said, I also understand that the building was originally built as a duplex and I do not have a problem with it being renovated as a "multi-family" dwelling. However, if the association has any concerns about density, I would support SNNA in limiting the plan accordingly.

My greatest concern is with stormwater run-off. Except for the 1898 structure and sidewalks, the entire property is currently greenspace. That greenspace soaks up rather than sheds rainfall. There is a slight berm at the back of the property that also retains and diverts stormwater.

The plan proposes to pave approximately half the greenspace and level the back so that cars can access parking at the alley rather than on the street in front. That is going to create a higher volume of stormwater not being retained on the property but rather flowing downhill, across the alley and into our yard ... (as well as a property next to ours). Parking 4-8 cars on an impervious surface will also send motor oils and other fluids into the alley and the adjoining yards during storms.

I would like to see the association ask Clay to develop a detailed stormwater retention strategy as part of his plan, using retainers (for instance, stone borders or walls on slopes), rain gardens (which filter toxins as well as retain water) and pervious concrete or permeable stones in the parking lot with spacing for water absorption in the underlying soil. Given that we are so close to the river, these elements would aid in keeping 4-8 times more pollutants out of the Cumberland via alley and street run-off.

I understand that Clay's proposal meets stormwater requirements, but specific plans are negotiable above and beyond the baselines Metro sets. Besides that, after living here for a decade, I have found that stormwater requirements have not always been sufficient to address run-off, pooling and flooding between 7th Av and 4th Av.

I appreciate the association's support on this quality of life issue and I hope that Clay will write limitations on paving materials into the specific plan. If he does so, I will not oppose it in the future either in community meetings or at public hearings, unless the association has other concerns that require my support in those venues.

At the meeting, the members seemed amenable to my concerns about run-off. So, I hope to see some restrictions written into the SP to protect our interests.

I cannot find the proposal or planning analysis on the proposal on the Metro website, yet, but the Planning Commission public hearing on this proposal is less than a week away: September 25, 4:00p, at the Sonny West Conference Center, 700 2nd Av. S. I am hoping to hear something before then, because I plan to be at the meeting to express my concerns.


UPDATE:  Planning department officials tell me that the planning staff analysis of this proposal will not be posted online until next Friday at noon. So, we will essentially have only a couple of days to look over what Metro Planning presents to the planning commission before the latter votes it up or down after Monday's public hearing. There has got to be a better way to inform neighbors affected by the plan on 6th Av. N. The developers have all of the knowledge way ahead of the public hearing and thus they enjoy a distinct advantage over neighborhoods.


UPDATE:  Freddie O'Connell forwarded the following response from the developer.

Attached you will find the SP which was submitted to planning which specifically designates the parking to be pervious.  After discussing this with my engineer, it's likely we will use a combination of both pavers as well as pervious concrete and create an appealing design.  These materials are install on top of a deep crushed stone base to provide additional storage capacity.

Additionally, there are two heavily landscaped rain gardens along the rear of the property which will further retain and absorb any possible runoff.  With the combination of these techniques, I'm told that it's highly likely that we will actually retain more runoff than it does at present.

I really think that he will be pleased with the design.  Because the lot has such a steep slope, his concern is valid although.  Honestly, he should look at the adjacent construction project. I don't believe that single family homes have to submit storm water plans and that parel's permeability was just cut in half, if not more depending on the rear drive.

This seems to be good news. The proposal goes before the Planning Commission today. The planning department analysis of the proposal recommends it based on their usual reasoning about savings and walkable urban neighborhoods, but makes no mention of the environmental and stormwater impact changes that the developer says he has made to the SP. I'll be watching this proposal just as I have every other SP that has been proposed for our neighborhood. As I have in the past, I will contact Metro planners should the plan not materialize as proposed.

As to his point about the adjoining property under construction, the developers did not seek rezoning on that parcel, so I did not have the chance to try to leverage attention to water retention issues. As long as builders meet the bureaucratic requirements based on current zoning, the neighborhood has no say-so regarding these questions. That is why SPs proposals are so important for the community to respond to. If I had that opportunity, I would have expressed these same concerns to those developers, too.

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