A few residents from the nearby Academy Park subdivision complained about certain aspects of the site plan that was adopted last month, saying it is too different from the plan that was originally presented before the bond referendum vote took place. These same residents spoke out with concerns at the first progress report and public input session on City Center, held last Monday.
Alexander Williamson, a representative and resident from the subdivision, said he is worried about the proposed position of the City Hall building, saying it is too close to his neighborhood and will cause increased noise.
“Diminishing the buffer is very different than what we had expected,” he said.
Williamson also said he is concerned that the relocated Haynes Bridge Road will be increased to four lanes, not include a roundabout and have a speed limit over 25 mph.
But public works director Pete Sewczwicz later said that was not the case and that the road has been designed to have two lanes, a roundabout and a maximum posted speed limit of 25 mph.
Throughout the ongoing process of designing the downtown development plan, complaints have been heard about the size of the parking deck that will go on the site.
Dina Franch, also an Academy Park resident, spoke Monday, asking if the deck needed to be as big as planned. She said the number of parking spaces needed downtown is “speculative” and the structure’s plans should be re-examined. She indicated that the plan is also much less pedestrian-friendly than it was originally.
Franch also said she would like City Council to allow residents a multi-week opportunity to help plan and give input on the project — leading council members to assure her that the public input sessions at the regularly planned weekly City Center updates were for exactly that.
Mayor David Belle Isle also said the project’s planners are in the process of developing alternative plans for where the parking deck and the City Hall building will be located within downtown.
That plan that did not bode well for one resident, local business owner Larry Attig, who said he feels like the project is “going backwards.”
“I think it’s time to close off the comments,” he said. “I feel like we’re going with mob rule.”
Attig said he is in favor of the plan that was approved last month and trusts the architects and planners who created it.
“You guys have been elected to represent us, and I trust you,” he said to council members. “Let’s move forward.”
During the presentation, Michael Swartz, the architect working on the project, said the team plans to disguise the parking deck to make it resemble a building so it is more visually appealing.
He also explained that streets within the site are important so there isn’t just one way in and one way out of the area — making it flow better with the rest of downtown to the north and the west. Additionally, streets can be closed easily for special events.
The east side of Main Street, he said, will be designed in a way that matches the west side, so they can “grow together.”