Urban Turf: Zoning Commission Not Ready to Approve McMillan, Asks For More Details

Urban Turf posted the following article on its website on May 29, 2014.

McMillan Park Photo

by Lark Turner

At a final Zoning Commission (ZC) hearing on Tuesday night, Vision McMillan Partners (VMP) didn’t exactly get a warm embrace of their plan to redevelop the McMillan Sand Filtration plant.

The commission expressed strong concerns about the height of medical office buildings planned for the site, especially as they relate to nearby rowhomes adjacent to the development (map). They also cast doubt on VMP’s plans to bring in more transit for people living, working and accessing the site.

“McMillan has been like that for so long that I want to make sure that whatever is done there is done right, not just because we want it done,” said the ZC’s head, Anthony Hood. “I don’t have a problem with turning it down, I really don’t, and I’ll go home and sleep real good at night.”

Tuesday’s meeting was the fifth public ZC hearing on the site. The hearings have been filled with neighbors expressing concerns about the development’s effect on the historic site, the height and scale of the development, the traffic impact and the environmental impact. An attorney for Friends of McMillan Park, an advocacy group opposing the development, was present Tuesday to question the project proposed by VMP. The plan for the site has been in the works since 2007.

The developers are seeking approval in part under the C-3-C Planned Unit Development designation, which allows for moderate density. But commissioners aren’t so sure the plans presented fall under that designation.

“The really heavy lift here, the thing that’s most difficult, is this notion that the C3C zone (is) actually compatible with the … plan,” said ZC member Peter May. “That’s really the most troubling thing.”

Member Michael Turnbull expressed the most vociferous opposition to the plan.

“I don’t see a plan. I don’t see a positive plan,” Turnbull said, referring to the the issue of public transit that would serve the site. “You’re asking for a PUD which is stretching the whole idea of what medium density is. Explain to me how you’re going to fix this.”

He also asked VMP to reconsider the height of the medical office building and the grocery store, to which one member of the team responded that both had been carefully thought-out. That wasn’t enough for Turnbull.

“Think about it some more,” he said.

The commission asked for some post-hearing submissions, but other than those the case is closed. Hood said he’d like both parties to be present when the commission starts to deliberate on the case so that they’re available to answer questions, a diversion from usual policy.

At one point during the meeting, Turnbull even called out a member of VMP for apparently smiling while he made his comments. Hood mentioned that, too.

“I see people smiling,” Hood said. “I hope you’re smiling after we vote.”

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