Sketch Plan Approved Spear Meadows Moves Forward

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Thursday February 04, 2016

For five years, the Development Review Board has listened to several iterations of what development might take place on Spear Street adjacent to Vale Drive, Pinnacle Drive, Meadowood Drive, and across the street from Stonehedge Drive. None of them have been quite right. However, after reviewing developer Chris Snyder’s revisions to the Spear Meadows sketch plan on January 19, the board voiced that it’s a step in the right direction.

Located at 1320, 1340, and 1350 Spear Street, the plan has historically shown higher density in a variety of housing types, such as single-family, triplexes, and duplexes. The plan has also dealt with the use of an accessible public park, future connections like Vale Drive, development of public and private roads, traffic, block lengths, sidewalks/driveways, orientation of units and garages, walkability, and discussion of dead ends. The application started with developer Eric Farrell before being handed to Chris Snyder of Snyder Homes.

The current sketch plan, application #SD-14-37 of Snyder Homes, calls for a planned unit development on 26.15 acres to raze a single family dwelling and to construct 18 single family dwellings, three 3-unit multi-family dwellings, and 10 two-family dwellings. There are currently two single family dwellings in existence.

The base density on the parcel is 31 units. The maximum amount, in accordance with Chapter 9 of the Land Development Regulations (LDRs) and determined by the Neighborhood Residential sub-district under the Transfer Development Rights (TDR) program, is 103 units. Past plans have shown as much as over 90 units for the parcel; Snyder’s current plan whittled it down to 48 units.

The plan shows a connection to Vale Drive, which was decided at an earlier stage. It also shows a seven-acre public park in the southeast corner of the parcel; this exceeds the one-acre minimum standard and proposes access via a path and boardwalk across the wetlands. A 10-foot meandering paved rec path along the single family homes and triplexes is included as well.

“This is the lowest density from Mr. Snyder, with a lot of park,” Chair Tim Barritt said. “Staff is getting more comfortable with this than it has in the past. The board is looking at this as the most acceptable thing we’ve seen so far.”

Board member Mark Behr noted that the triplexes on the parcel will help increase diversity of housing, and it offers opportunities for people with different income levels.

Development plans at this location have not been well received by neighbors. Dr. Daniel Seff, a resident and attorney representing a number of neighbors in the area, acknowledged positive changes, but his clients’ concerns are still largely unchanged.

“The plan is still too dense,” he said.

Seff and the board went into a brief discussion of TDRs. Behr explained that the TDR process began in 2010. A TDR program is a planning process used to control land use and ensure effective urban development and land conservation. To conserve some of the city’s precious open land, this program gives certain landowners the right to sell (transfer) their development rights (“sending districts”) to developers to work within “receiving districts,” or districts more appropriately designed for higher density development.

“We’re not opposed conceptually to Transfer Development Rights,” Seff said. “But it doesn’t make sense to shuffle density within the Southeast Quadrant.”

Barritt pointed out that the board has approved other projects with TDRs, such as the Rye development and Cider Mill Phase II.

Furthermore, a proposed 320-foot private dead end street serving eight units is in excess of 200-feet; it is therefore not compliant with the LDRs. Moreover, the triplexes are inconsistent with the surrounding area, and the park should be relocated north to a higher elevation with accessibility to the rec path, he added.

Regarding the conversation on dead ends, the LDRs revealed a contradiction. The LDRs state that a dead end shall not be more than 200 feet. However, the LDRs also state that the city should plan for future connectivity. The board reasoned that the dead end, which falls short of connecting to resident Bill Gilbert’s property line, could be planned for future connectivity and serve as a temporary dead end in the interim.

The seven acre park in the southeast portion of the parcel received praise from the board but also some criticism from the audience.

Resident Michael Scollins, who abuts the property to the north, explained that the location of the park would be best kept along the rec path. Scollins said in his 40 years of walking the property, he cannot envision a southeast location drawing in any users.

“Whether it’s seven acres, four acres, or 10 acres, if no one is going to use it, it doesn’t matter,” he asked.

Board member John Wilking said that if a bike path led to the park, more people might use it.

The plan will advance to preliminary plat.

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent