Shortbread hearing long on complaints

During last night’s public hearing on the Shortbread Lofts, I had to knock my head against the wall a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t stuck in a time warp. It sure felt like Aydan Court all over again.

You have a developer who has taken pains to fit the changing demands of the community into an urban streetscape that could give local merchants a badly needed boost and meet market need, and still you have folks lining up to complain about it.

It will draw too many people to the area. (That’s the point.) It will draw too many renters to the area. (The demand is for rental housing in this era when people are leery of investing in an asset that is as illiquid as real estate, and even if they did want to buy, banks wouldn’t give them mortgages.) It has too much parking. It doesn’t have enough parking. Make the rooftop jogging track multipurpose. It doesn’t preserve the charm of Rosemary Street. (It’s next door to a minimart, surrounded by parking lots and down the street from a low, concrete block building.) It doesn’t fit with the downtown intimacy. (Without paying customers, downtown would be a very lonely place indeed.)

And then Matt Czajkowski called it ugly. Granted, its color has been described as “sunshine” or “mustard” yellow, and eight of the nine council members are of an age to prefer “oatmeal” or “café au lait” to raucous primary colors. But that’s for the Community Design Commission to handle.

The developers agreed to 85 of town staff’s 86 recommendations, asking only that in-street lighting on the crosswalk be replaced with a lighted crosswalk sign. Jim Ward asked whether in-street lighting would cause problems for a snow plow, and Czajkowski pointed out that when Rosemary Street (a town road) is repaved, the town would bear the cost of re-setting the lights.

The developers still have some issues to work out with the Franklin Street property owners. The new alleyway access, wide enough to accommodate emergency vehicles, cuts 3 feet off one Franklin Street lot and 8 feet off another. Another faction objected to the dumpster being replaced by a permanent structure to house trash bins. Mayor Pro Tem Ed Harrison made it clear that the developers would need to resolve those issues to achieve “peace in the valley” before council would likely approve it.

The matter returns to council Feb. 27.
– Nancy Oates

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