by Jon Anderson
No, it’s not a time warp, PD-15 is meeting again. After devolving into immovable factions last autumn, the neighborhood is back at the table … with a difference. First, the city is guiding the process to ensure information is accurate and decorum is kept. The second difference is that this new group doesn’t contain any of the rabble-rousers from the last time. The hope is for a more balanced conversation and outcome for the neighborhood.
This first meeting was no barn-burner. Planners from the city’s Sustainable Development office led the discussion reviewing the current conditions of the PD-15 area and how things evolved over the years to get there. Council member Jennifer Gates was also on hand to advise the group on city processes and share her experience with some of the concepts discussed.
I think the air was definitely let out of the anti-authorized hearing camp who had spread propaganda claiming the city would show up with a jumbo development plan to whip the committee into approving.
Instead, senior planner Andrew Ruegg walked the committee through the PD-15 documents and the city’s interpretation of their contents (the scant four pages of text and two diagrams). The reason the city is interpreting at all is because PD-15 is a quite imprecise compared to today’s PD documentation requirements. It shouldn’t be a shock that the 15th of anything is less good than the 1,000th … and today the city has close to 1,000 PDs.
The questions were about the level you’d expect and certainly indicative of a group that’s taking their task seriously. For example, the difference between a major and minor amendment to the PD. The most recent minor amendment was in 2010 when Preston Tower removed their second tennis court and used the space for additional parking. Minor amendments don’t require Plan Commission and city council approval. Major amendments – changing building footprint, height, etc. – do require full city approval and the reason they’re at the table.
Another asked whether the Pink Wall itself was changeable. Before the gnashing of teeth, I walk on the outside of the Pink Wall on occasion and its foundations are higher than the road bed and exposed. Changing the wall may be needed to level and improve its stability in the future.
The city didn’t immediately have an answer. However, I recall from my investigations that the Pink Wall west of Pickwick Lane to The Laurel is protected by the deed restrictions covering those parcels (As I recall, The Laurel was able to remove their section because their lots weren’t covered by the deed restrictions). The section running from Preston Tower to the Athena isn’t protected separately as it’s on land owned by the buildings fronting Northwest Highway (whose lots extend to Northwest Highway).
At one point the question came about permissible uses. It was noted that the PD included specific uses for the commercial condos on the first two floors of Preston Tower. This started a discussion of whether mixed-uses should be allowed on a ground floor of a residential building. Few warmed to the idea and the Preston Tower representative pointed out that the type of business suggested (a café or coffee shop) had been tried in the past and that there wasn’t enough foot or car traffic to sustain it.
In fact, waaay back there was a grocery store, pharmacy and even a supper club called Chez Arthur on the eastern end of Preston Tower and a 7 Eleven on the western end. I agree that a lone café within a residential district is unlikely to succeed.
For those reading who didn’t attend, the committee will meet as needed (five scheduled, but may require more) before presenting their recommendations to the neighborhood at a separate meeting. If there’s enough peachiness, it goes into City Hall to be heard and approved (or denied) by the plan commission and city council. Council member Gates indicated that the process from start to final approval could take six months or so.
Also, the sessions are recorded and will be posted online along with a summary of the meeting. You can find them, and all other materials used, at both the Sustainable Development and Council member Gates’ websites listed below.
For those wanting to keep abreast of the situation, here are a few links:
Nest meeting: July 11th at 6pm at the Walnut Hill Recreation Center (map). See you there.
Remember: High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with three Bronze (2016, 2017, 2018) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards. Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make? Shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.