LUC Minutes 2007-10-15

Eliot Land Use Committee Minutes
October 15, 2007

The meeting was called to order by, Mike Warwick at approximately 6:30 PM. Attendees introduced themselves.

The agenda was approved. Minutes from the previous meeting were not available to approve.

Mike quickly reviewed the three agenda items while waiting for committee members to straggle in.

Item 1: Status of Ben Kaiser’s proposed developments in and adjacent to Eliot. Rumors circulating regarding the status of two large development projects in Eliot resulted in Mike inviting someone from PATH Architecture (Ben’s firm) to update the committee. Scott Mankow (sp?) spoke on behalf of PATH and Ben. He indicated the turmoil in the mortgage business and in the local condo market made it impractical to continue construction as originally scheduled. Nevertheless, Ben intends to keep the property and is still committed to the project as planned, although that may change depending on who rapidly the condo and mortgage markets recover. Scott also indicated that the developer on the adjacent Wonder Bread site is in the same boat. Their plans are also on hold and being reconsidered. Since they were not as far along as Ben in terms of design and permitting, that isn’t as big a deal. They still intend to clean up the environmental problems on the site and demolish the existing building (s?). The LUC hasn’t received a demo permit notice yet, so it isn’t clear when that may occur. The bottom line appears to be that these plots of land will be developed more or less as planned, but perhaps not for a few more years.

Item 2: James Molton (sp?) from McKenzie Architects accepted an invitation to brief us on their next project on NE Graham St. This project is using community design standards, so there is no Type II review requirement by the LUC. The project will be adjacent to the one McKenzie is currently constructing. It will be rental housing consisting of a residential tower (45 feet to the highest point) with small (under 1,000 sq. ft.) live-work spaces. The small unit size is expected to be both affordable (rents will be low due to the small space) and “bike oriented.” Accordingly, off street parking will be limited. Parking will be shared with the adjacent building. (The one under construction now.) The apartment building will be oriented N-S so the units will be oriented E-W off a central hall. Construction materials will be similar to the adjacent building and is expected to begin this winter, pending permitting.

During the discussion it was noted that construction of the current building is taking a very long time. Concern was expressed for the neighbors who may have to endure construction next door for 5 or 6 years before both projects are complete. That was duly noted by James. During a personal conversation with Hillary, Mike found out that schedule slippage was attributed, in part, to use of building materials in a new application (commercial) for all parties (the architect, building, and City inspectors). The new building will use a similar product, but one that has higher insulation value and other properties that should make the process go faster. In addition, Hillary indicated use of these materials may be a hallmark of her practice, but only if they can find a way to speed the construction process. Hopefully, that will be the case for this building.

Item 3: The last item discussed was “officiating” the LUC. Mike previously indicated that he could not continue as Chair of the committee without someone to back him up for the times he is out of town (about half the meetings). To quicken a decision, Mike proffered his resignation. No action has been taken to replace him, primarily it appears because the position is somewhat intimidating as it requires some knowledge of land use and building regulations and flexibility to attend meetings with developers and City staff in between LUC meetings. In light of the difficulty resolving the leadership issue, Mike offered to continue as Chair, if a Vice-chair is elected, or as Vice-chair if him playing that role will ease concerns of would be Chair volunteers. At this point, it appears committee members who may be interested in either position are also considering other leadership roles on the Board. Until they decide on those, they are unable to commit to a leadership role on the LUC. Mike noted that he should be available to Chair the meeting in November (the 19th) and December (the 17th), so there are a couple of months to get this resolved.

The meeting was adjourned at approximately 8:00 PM.

Respectfully submitted to the LUC by Mike.