Tonight the Hudson Planning Commission is holding a public hearing to review the final plan for the residential portion of Phase II. I expect a number of citizens to voice their opinions. Below is mine.
Most people in Hudson agree that something needed to be done with the area around Morse Road and Owen Brown - the area we all refer to as Phase II. There is little disagreement on that. The disagreement comes in when we discuss size and scope, what specifically will be there. A number of citizens voiced concerns loudly enough that City Council agreed to authorize a non-binding vote. The discussion became big enough that two Political Action Committees were formed to voice their opinions on the issue and inform voters. My disagreement started when Council discussed the non-binding vote.
Some members of City Council made it clear that the vote would not mean anything unless it overwhelmingly favored the No side. Even if the Yes option lost, it would have to overwhelming lose for Council to serious change its position. The election results show the town voted No. Not by a lot. But by enough that it was clear the majority was on the 'no' side of the issue. And yet I had a debate with some members on the 'yes" side who said they don't know what the other 10,000 voters wanted because not everyone turned out. True. But we never know what those people want. Elections are won and lost by those who show up and voice their opinions. I tried to express that by using an example they would understand. When they won their offices by a few percentage points, did they hesitate to declare victory because they didn't know what the 10,000 voters who didn't show up wanted? No. They declared victory and took their elected positions confident that the election process worked. That's where I have a problem. You can't tell people that you want them to vote but you will likely ignore them if it doesn't go their way. Voters don't like that. Yet that is what the majority of council did.
Thankfully enough people working diligently were able to convince Council to make some changes. Council was presented with 2 options several weeks ago and they picked the largest - closest to the original design, of course. Again, as a voter, I don't appreciate that.
On to what I think we would have more easily agreed to. The plan during the vote had roughly 135 housing units. The modified plan will come in around 101 with 20 of those as condo units on the second and third floor of a building that will house some ground floor commercial office space. Had they eliminated the condo units and left it at 81, the community would have felt a lot better about the change. Office space was reduced from a proposed 138,000sq feet to 114,000sq feet. But along with that the parking garage was removed. I still believe this is too much commercial space and that overall the reduction is so minimal that a parking garage will still be required. I would reduce the office space to 70,000sq feet. Half of the original proposal. By freeing up some land we can use it for something that belongs in the town. That can be Town Hall (my preference), a senior center, a rec center - or leave it vacant for park space connected to the Windstream building, if we are ever able to acquire it. We have first right of refusal to buy it IF they choose to sell it. It is a major switching hub and will cost a substantial amount to move elsewhere. Windstream will only sell it if it makes sense to them, not us.
Town hall belongs downtown. The city would argue that by using the commercial space for Town Hall, we would remove the revenue generating ability of office space in that location. Sure - true. But we would make the Pasco building available, once again, to revenue generating tax paying businesses. Its a zero sum game economically. Our city staff need to be somewhere. We removed the ability for the Pasco property to generate city taxes when our city took it over. Many would argue Pasco and Phase II are completely different issues. They argue that because they want them to be different issues. But we can tie them together and make Phase II a town center, as it should be! Yes, add some housing units. Yes, add class A office space. But lower overall density of the plan a bit further and add to that a Town Hall, if still possible. If that ship has sailed, add something else that brings citizen value like a senior center, rec center, shared commercial center - there have been dozens of good ideas.
Im not here to rehash the vote. More than anything my concern is that the density still remains higher than ideal... and to express my distaste for how the voices of Hudson citizens were minimized. Were I on council my position would have been simple. You come up with good ideas, ask the people, and let them choose. What we saw was a voting block of 5 members endorse Phase II in its full blown design and use city resources to promote their view. That is not the kind of representation I want. That's not the person I am.