Public hearing slated on Meadowside development changes
Neighbors will have an opportunity to voice their opinion on proposed changes to the site plan for a nearly complete 15-unit apartment complex at 335 Meadowside Road.
The Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) voted 4-3-1 at its Dec. 20 meeting to conduct a public hearing on a minor amendment to an already approved site plan for the project. The hearing is expected to take place Tuesday, Jan. 17, at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.
Field & Son Builders, which is owned by Christopher and Warren Field, owns the one-acre property under the name of 335 Meadowside LLC. The Fields filed the application under the state’s affordable housing statute, 8-30g, a law that overrides local zoning regulations. The property is zoned for single-family use.
Attorney Thomas Lynch outlined the changes from the approved plans, changes that have already been built. Lynch said the major change was the use of stone pavers in front of the units “to create the appearance of a more pleasing site,” instead of the asphalt paving that was approved.
Another change was shortening the sidewalk in the front center of each unit to allow for additional landscaping. Lynch said the drainage plan was improved with the addition of three drains into the drainage swale at the rear of the property to prevent runoff adjacent to the site.
Lynch said the revisions also include relocating some windows on the buildings, “which has nothing to do with the zoning regulations.” He said the buildings are ready to lease, pending issuance of a certificate of occupancy by the city’s Building Department.
Commenting on the changes, City Planner David B. Sulkis said, “The proposed improvements and changes make the project a better project.” He also said, “Historically we have not done a public hearing for minor modifications to plans.”
Board member Jim Quish, who voted against the original approval, questioned why the developer was asking for approval of site plan changes when they have already been made.
Quish also asked about the difference in elevation from the rear of the development to the neighboring property to the east. The development is four feet higher than the adjacent property.
Lynch responded by saying that the abuting property owner, Frank Ginise of 331 Meadowside Road, had submitted pictures to the zoning office. Lynch said, “The grading will be leveled and there will be fencing along the property.”
Board member Richard Lutz asked, “Does the elevation on the eastern side meet the original plan?” and Lynch responded, “Yes.”
Quish suggested having a public hearing on the changes, saying, “Since the neighbors had an 8-30g application they were unhappy with, I think it is our responsibility to let them be heard.”
In response, Lynch said, “The project is being built. I don’t know what the public would comment on on the site. We are building better.”
Board member Michael Dolan, who abstained on the vote to conduct a public hearing, reviewed a handout from Ginise in which the homeowner expressed concern that the driveway apron by his property was not level.
Ginise was a vocal opponent at the public hearings for the original proposal. He hired a traffic engineer at his own expense to provide a traffic report to the board.
Developer “Buddy” Field responded by saying the previous apron had not been built to code, and the change was dictated and designed by the city’s Engineering Department. The contractor redid the aprons when it poured concrete for new sidewalks.
Ginise said there was ponding of water on his driveway, but a city building inspector visited the site and said there was no ponding of water.
Board member Thomas Nichol asked, “Why are we getting this action tonight when it was done two months ago?”
Lynch responded that the city planner works with the builder and signs off on changes such as these, changes that never come to the board.
“I suspect it came to you because the neighbor went down to the Parsons building on a regular basis,” said Lynch.
Quish said the public should have “an avenue to speak” in making a motion to bring the minor modification to the site plan to a public hearing.
Board member Scott Marlow asked, “What are they going to be commenting on? We haven’t changed anything on the site plans, so why would we want to have a public hearing?”
Quish replied, “The reality is the project has changed. I am just not sure the neighbors feel that way. They should be heard.”
Dolan said he was more inclined to have the builder and neighbors meet to mediate any concerns, rather than have a public hearing.
Board member Carl Moore said he thought the matter should be handled administratively.
Lynch said prior to the public hearing, he would meet with his clients and see if they could meet with the neighbors.
At its June 16, 2015, meeting, the board approved a modified version of the original proposal, decreasing the total number of two-bedroom townhouses from 18 to 15, and increasing the number of units designated as affordable from six to seven.
Facing the threat of an appeal, at its July 21, 2015, meeting, the board agreed to require only five affordable units, which meets the 30% required by the state law.
The project has a garage for each unit, plus an additional 32 surface parking spaces. The three-story townhouse-style buildings loom over the neighboring homes, most of which are one-and-one-half-story raised ranch-style single-family houses.