Developer Steven G. Harris, responding to the July 13 Observer editorial, “City treats its plans as if they're on Kleenex”:
The Observer has a right to an opinion on our project as well as the planning staff's recommendations, but the premise for your opinion is incorrect. Instead of being impugned by the Observer, the city's planning department should be receiving accolades for their vision in planning for transit-oriented development.
You say this project is in violation of the South End Station Area Plan. WRONG! The Zoning Committee unanimously found this petition to be consistent with the South End Transit Station Area Plan and reasonable in the public interest.
The zoning ordinance is clear that there are aspects of this zoning that can be petitioned out of, height being one of them. To state that allowing buildings at our proposed height is too lenient to protect “bungalow-filled” neighborhoods ignores the fact that the South End Plan goes a long way to protect neighborhoods. There is a 40-foot height restriction in TOD when adjacent to single family homes.
There have been several instances of approval of requests for increases above the 120-foot standard. Also, there is a substantial amount of UMUD Zoning (which has no height limit) in close proximity to our site. To suggest that the South End Plan is being thrown out the window is absurd. Our project has received Planning's support as well as unanimous zoning committee support.
The South End Station Area Plan states, “The goal of transit oriented land use planning is to transition from an auto dominated, dispersed, single-use pattern of development to a pattern with a mix of land uses in a compact setting that will support pedestrian and transit activity.” With our mix of uses, creation of pedestrian access to light rail, open spaces and retail activity we meet this standard.
The plan provides for the greatest intensity of development to occur within a quarter-mile of the station. This is consistent with planning staff's recommendation of our plan. Residents and business owners who took part in the 2005 South End planning support this project. They have invested in the district for what it was planned to become – transit-oriented, mixed-use and pedestrian-friendly.