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West Park is first PUD application under city’s new policy

Friday, October 3, 2008 by Kimberly Reeves

Oak Hill’s West Park Planned Unit Development made its appearance last night, heralding the first time a PUD has made it to Council under the city’s revised ordinance intended to give the city more power to negotiate with developers.

 

For a test case, West Park Planned Unit Development was a low-key affair, even as it revealed the Oak Hill community did not universally embrace the plans for the 120-acre development west of the “Y” in Oak Hill. Attorney Dowe Gullatt of Clark, Thomas and Winters told Council developer Rudy Belton had committed to a key concept – a transit-oriented Oak Hill town center – in his revised plans and had made key concessions.

 

Land planner Paul Linehan noted the West Park development was expanded from an initial site plan and would be a mix of uses. The central focus would be the transit station, although it is still unclear whether that would be as simple as a bus stop or as complicated as a full-service rail stop on an extension of rail service.

 

Linehan outlined some of the concessions that Buffalo Equities had made during discussions with the local community: decreased retail; better transit; additional common areas; an amphitheater. A total of 52 acres or more would be set aside for mitigation with no connections to local neighborhoods. In addition, an eight-story hotel had been shifted to the eastern side of the property, along with entertainment and retail.

 

The development was described as “very urban” in nature, highly walkable, with connections between various areas of the development. Medical offices to the west could possibly serve Seton Southwest. A cinema was added, as well as townhomes. Surrounding neighborhoods were concerned about the lighting and noise on proposed ball fields, so the number of fields was reduced to one. Still, the developer is in talks to provide possible expansion space for ACC-Pinnacle and a new site for the Oak Hill YMCA, which could provide a partner for sports facilities.

 

However, the proposal comes with its own type of price tag. Buffalo Equities wants more density on the property, from 25 percent to 39 percent impervious cover. That is where negotiations with the Council come into play. It will be Council, and not local Oak Hill neighborhoods, that will negotiate the concessions that will be necessary to earn a possible waiver of the SOS ordinance—which requires at least votes from six of the seven Council Members.

 

Gullatt said the developer is open to any number of concessions. The initial proposal is a mitigation fund intended to offset additional density above 25 percent.

 

As Council Member Mike Martinez noted when the case was introduced, the new planned unit development ordinance allowed the West Park PUD to come to Council early enough to shape the development. Buffalo Equities has yet to file a site plan. And the developer is still open to talking with Council about changes.

 

Greg Guernsey of Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department said city staff would like to continue to work with the applicant, especially given that the Oak Hill proposal could be a benefit to the neighborhoods and surrounding areas. Specifics raised by Council members in the first round of discussion included specifics about water quality, setbacks to the adjacent communities and the positioning of the transit location.

 

“Those are some of the things we’ll go over with them before they submit their formal application,” Guernsey said. “Once that application is filed, there will be notice sent out to adjacent property owners, and the dialogue will continue. Right now, what we’re having is more of a chat with them.”

Coincidentally, the Oak Hill neighborhood plan will be up at Council in another two weeks. Guernsey warned Council that West Park PUD was – in at least one aspect – putting the cart before the horse because it would become clear at the time of the neighborhood plan that the community was divided on the transit stop.

 

Council Members Lee Leffingwell and Laura Morrison both raised the question of environmental features on the property. Gullatt said no significant CEFs were located on the property. The concept of waiving the SOS ordinance, however, is likely to be a major point of discussion when a firmer plan makes its way to Council.

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