Thursday, December 13, 2018

HHA Project and the Planning Board

The initial presentation of the Hudson Housing Authority's plan to build more low-income housing across State Street from Bliss Towers before the Planning Board happened tonight. The representatives of the project--among them, two lawyers, two architects, an engineer, a landscape architect, and someone from PRC (Property Resources Corporation) there to explain RAD--filled half the benches in the Council Chamber at City Hall.

Dan Udell was there to videotape the entire proceeding, which took about an hour and a half, so Gossips will focus only on new information disclosed and a few other highlights of the evening.
  • The two buildings proposed for Phase 2 of the plan--the footprint for each is larger than that of Bliss Towers--will each contain 40 units, for a total of 80 more units. (The two buildings in Phase 1 represent 73 new units.) Phase 2 will also involve the expansion of the existing parking lot on Columbia Street, so that it wraps the corner and extends to Bliss Towers along North Second Street--the very area for which volunteers from the Conservation Advisory Council had designed new landscaping.
  • Instead of the economic diversity cited in the Strategic Housing Action Plan and DRI awards --"targeting incomes between 30% and 120% of Area Median Income (AMI)"--only households with incomes between 50 percent and 65 percent of Area Median Income will qualify to be tenants of the "family" building and the "senior" building to be constructed in Phase 1.
Some comments from members of the Planning Board and their legal counsel also merit reporting:
  • Mitch Khosrova, counsel to the Planning Board, advised Charles Gottlieb, one of the attorneys for HHA, to produce the compilation of the comments from the public design charrette and the responses to each--what was feasible, what was best for the project--to head off having it all revisited at the Planning Board's public hearing.
  • Clark Wieman told his colleagues, "We're the Planning Board not the Project Review Board."
  • Speaking of the income levels targeted for the project, Mark Morgan-Perez declared, "That is not diversity in this area at all."
  • Laura Margolis asked, "Was there an assessment done that indicates this is the housing needed here? Are you pursuing this project without knowing the need?"
  • Morgan-Perez suggested that the process might have been "find available funding sources and then build a project around it rather than looking at what the community needs and what it says it needs."
  • Margolis said there were people in Hudson--creative people, people who worked in shops and restaurants--who can't afford the available housing but probably wouldn't qualify for low-income housing. She went on to say, "To develop such a massive project and not look at the people who are living here is disturbing."
  • Walter Chatham, who chairs the Planning Board, said, "We want to serve first the people here and not draw people from out of Hudson."
  • When Wieman commented, "Hudson is now approaching a moment when it is revisiting its comprehensive plan," Chatham observed, "They have adopted a number of New Urbanism strategies" and called the plan "well-intentioned." He also shared what he called his "new favorite axiom": "The perfect is the enemy of the good."

Before the meeting ended, Khosrova praised the representatives of PRC for their cooperation and willingness to provide whatever was needed, and Craig Haigh, code enforcement officer, declared, "As of right now, it's only this board," meaning that the proposal conformed with the zoning constraints and requirements and would not have to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals.

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