City Hall

Roosevelt Upzone Passes; Neighborhood Seeks Agreement With Developer

By Erica C. Barnett January 30, 2012

This afternoon, the city council voted 7-2---with only Bruce Harrell and Jean Godden opposed---to approve a proposed upzone near the planned Roosevelt light rail station, which some neighborhood residents oppose because it includes a height increase (from 40 to 65 feet) across the street from Roosevelt High School.

Although commenters today were mostly opposed to the rezone (calling the new development, which has not yet been designed, everything from a "monstrous eyesore" to "disgusting" to a social-engineering plan to force people to be "stacked like loaves of bread), the council ultimately opted for the long-delayed upzone. A proposal by council member Nick Licata to delay the rezone for two weeks failed, with only Licata, Godden, and Harrell voting to delay the upzone for two weeks.

Ultimately, Licata voted for the legislation, saying that a "yes" vote would ensure that the council could continue to work with the neighborhood to improve the project.

"I can count the votes and once we lost the vote to delay, I know that this will pass," Licata said. "I want to continue to work with the community to ensure that we protect open space and the view from the school."

Former council land use committee chair Sally Clark, who is now council president, sponsored the legislation.

Roosevelt neighborhood residents who objected to the rezone requested a memorandum of understanding between Roosevelt neighborhood groups and the developer who plans to build six stories of housing on the blocks across the street from the high school, which are currently occupied by derelict housing owned by notorious landlord Hugh Sisley, stipulating that the neighborhood and the developer would work together to come up with a design for the development both sides could accept.

Specifically, the neighborhood groups wrote in a letter to the developer, Roosevelt Design Group (RDG), they hoped to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the developer and set up a neighborhood design commission that would "supplement the professional talents of RDG’s design team" and increase community support for the project. The goals of the group would be to minimize the loss of views from the high school; reduce shadows; and "mitigate the appearance of height, bulk and scale of the buildings," among other things.

That MOU doesn't look likely, council member Nick Licata, who laid out his reasons for supporting a 40-foot height limit on the so-called school blocks in a blog post last month, says. In a letter responding to the neighborhood groups, RDG wrote that although they looked forward to working with the neighborhood, they were only willing to meet with the neighborhood two more times before the design for the proposal goes to the city's design review board.

"We respect and appreciate this concise expression of values and it is our intent to welcome participation from design professionals from the Roosevelt Neighborhood throughout the design process to help our team integrate the values of the Neighborhood into our project wherever possible," RDG partner Ed Hewson wrote. Hewson repeated his pledge to work with the neighborhood at today's council meeting, telling council members, "Our goal is to create a great building that the neighborhood will embrace."

"The MOU would be an informal understanding between the developer and the community that [the developer will] engage and try to do good stuff," Licata says. "The developer feels they've spent enough time and that some people will never be happy" with any proposal, he adds.

In related news: Density is people.
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