chaglang wrote:This was more complicated than people just rejecting density or mixed use. KC really only recognizes arguments about density/parking as valid to opposing a project like this. So any opposition to it - aesthetic, whatever - gets funneled through that. And if the building goes in as apartments only, NBD. There's a ton of retail within a block of that site.
Well stated. My understanding of the timeline from a resident perspective is the following (some of it may be a bit out of order, but it is close-ish):
1. EPC quietly buys the land and proceeds to refuse maintenance on the landscape and sidewalks. The warehouse is still not really a major eyesore and wouldn't be considered "blight" in most communities.
2. EPC does almost no outreach, and comes up with an initial plan for the area that is very suburban looking and out of touch with any urban sensibility (in my opinion), includes a restaurant with a rooftop bar (next door to multiple homes with young kids), more units than are currently allowed by the zoning regulations, and a parking plan that ran through alleys adjoining back yards of houses and also required a tax abatement.
3. The nearby neighbors initially take issue with the size of the development since it will require a zoning exception, the design elements that include a rooftop bar area, and the parking design. It is important to note that most of the residents on both Madison and Belleview park on the street currently, and few houses have driveways. Another sticking point is why the development requires or would qualify for a tax abatement considering the attractiveness of the land for development. It was clear that the overall plan was crafted in a way that it could not be completed without the abatement (or free money added to the budget) by the city (this was also stated by EPC). Why EPC was so sure they would get an abatement for an underground parking structure, I am not sure, but the entire plan hinged on that happening based on their statements.
4. EPC does finally reach out to the neighbors and is immediately dismissive of their concerns. Multiple neighbors have stated that EPC were bordering on rude in their first interactions, and that this, more than anything else, was why they did not trust EPC in subsequent plan revisions. Neighbors suspect that EPC would like to make the office space associated with this location their new "urban" headquarters since they do not have much of an urban track record. Neighbors note that the area is not really "blighted" as EPC claims.
5. Facing the potential for a mounting opposition, EPC revises the plan to a much better looking structure (in my opinion), removes the rooftop bar and restaurant from the plan, and reduces the number of units (to a number that is still 50% above the current zoning allowance). This appeased many of the immediate neighbors, but most still had a problem with why the plan required a tax abatement and with EPC's track record interacting with the community. Somewhere in the mix, a notarized petition of neighbors in the immediate vicinity is created to oppose the zoning amendment that would allow for the project to move forward. The zoning issue was far from the sole reason why most were in opposition, but it was the only tool available to prevent the overall plan from moving forward as is.
6. By this time, the rest of the neighborhood (Westside South and other parts of the North) had been made aware of and was being mobilized to voice concern of the general influx of higher-end units to the area and its potential impact on property taxes. The Switzer/West High apartment construction and announced pricing were used to warn residents of the type of project that could be the new normal. A separate petition is created that includes people who do not live very close to the development at all and is mostly concerned with the potential impact to property taxes.
7. The vote on the zoning amendment is delayed multiple times, and EPC continues to neglect the property, such that the overgrown landscaping and sidewalks do finally make the property look run down.
8. EPC threatens to buy adjoining land and complete the project at a reduced size with surface parking on the adjoining land if they do not get the tax abatement.
9. EPC rescinds its request for a zoning amendment and tax abatement (without it ever coming to a vote) and will move forward with the project at a zoning appropriate size and with surface parking (no word on if they will buy nearby land to do this). Multiple neighbors who have been the strongest opposition have stated that they would have been fine with a slightly larger project (sans the tax abatement) had EPC interacted well with the community from the start. I wasn't around for those interactions, so I'm only taking the word of those people who I do not think are likely to overreact or NIMBY everything. It kinda sounds like EPC was not telling the truth about the tax abatement, and it was going to be used to fund a much larger percentage of the project than just the underground parking. Underground parking could not have housed a substantial number of vehicles anyhow.