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CDC issues certificate for more apartments on 15 – 501

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Another enormous, luxury apartment development is coming under the form based code; it is located along Fordham Boulevard (Highway 15-501) and the corner of  Elliott Road.

The proposed design is one, 521′ building with a pedestrian pass-thru on the first floor

Who approves new projects in the Ephesus Fordham District?

In 2014 the Town Council gave away all public review of projects in the new Ephesus – Fordham District and gave sole final say to the Town Manager. However, one advisory board, the Community Design Commission (CDC) , makes design recommendations.

What are the details of the Fordham Apartments application?  Link to Town Webpage

The existing Days Inn hotel is proposed to be demolished and replaced by one building 521 feet long, housing new 273-unit apartments at the corner of Fordham Boulevard and South Elliott Road.

The southern portion of building, closer to S. Elliott Road is proposed to be six stories. The northern portion of the building, near the existing Days Inn hotel is proposed to be five stories and wrap the parking deck on three sides.

The property is entirely within the 100-year regulatory floodplain and is partly within the regulatory floodway and Jordan Watershed Riparian Buffer.

Before the CDC met, Council member Jess Anderson asked the Town Manager why the town staff continued to negotiate details for 6 months on a application that fails to meet the town’s newly adopted maximum block size of 450 feet with the Ephesus Forham (Blue Hill) district. The Manager replied that the Council allowed exceptions to be considered and granted if certain conditions were met. This issue became the central question at the CDC’s October 24th meeting: Did the proposed alternative (sent to the CDC a few days before the meeting) meet the standards for an exception?

Following is a summary of the October 24th meeting where the Community Design Commission decided to grant a certificate of appropriateness.

  1.  Charles Humble asked the Community Design Commission to adhere to the FBC block standards. Specifically he asked the Commission to deny RAM’s request to exempt the project from the FBC’s maximum block size standard on the grounds that it does not meet any of the conditions enumerated in the code under which an exemption can be granted. See letter here.
  2. Council very deliberately adjusted the block size to address massing and connectivity concerns. The outcome of the CDC deliberations Tuesday night was at odds with those council policies and the code.
  3. Only five commissioners attended the meeting. Four were absent. The chair pushed the Commission to a final vote despite unanswered legal and technical questions, missing members, and a motion to table the vote until the questions could be answered and the other members were present.
  4. The developer argued that the plan warranted an exemption to the 450 foot maximum block length due to site constraints; however two commissioners argued that the problem lay with the design of the building as opposed to the site itself.
  5. In addition, one commissioner said the applicant’s plan is not consistent with the Town’s goal of redeveloping the Ephesus Fordham district as a mixed-use area that supports all modes of transportation.
  6. Commissioners posed legal questions that staff could not answer. Commissioner Dancy asked whether a pedestrian easement qualifies as a “thoroughfare.” (If a pedestrian easement does not qualify, then we assume the staff can deny the compliance certificate.) Other questions included:  (1) the legal definition of a “block,” and (2) the implications on connectivity within the EF/Blue Hill District of not requiring RAM to provide a bona fide street within the site.
  7. That motion to table failed by a 2-3 vote. The motion to grant a design alternative passed 3 -2.  The motion approving a Certificate of Appropriateness passes 4 – 1.

At some point the Town staff and the Town Council must acknowledge that the current form based zoning code and approval process are not delivering what the citizens wanted. The proof lies in the discontinuity between the zoning code and the Ephesus Fordham Small Area Plan. It is scandalous to us that the new development occurring under the code does not resemble the Town’s own adopted plan that was endorsed by both the Council and the community.

 

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