Road noise

You don’t see this every day: Roger Perry ceding to “a small group of people Nancy Oateswho make noise about everything.” What his phrasing lacked in graciousness, his gesture made up for in integrity. Perry said he’d pay for the street that connects his proposed apartment complex to Elliott Road, a road that from the onset the town expected the developer to pay for.

All along, that segment of road, shown as a dotted red line and marked as “by others” on the town’s plan, was not part of the $8.8 million the town had budgeted for road improvements in the Ephesus-Fordham area. But somewhere along the line, it got shifted to the taxpayers’ tab, even though town staff did not know how much it would cost. Town staff and some elected officials embarrassed themselves in trying to defend their stumble with a lame “I meant to do that” excuse.

The map had other red-dotted lines, including one cutting through Rams Plaza, and another along the northern edge of Village Plaza that would connect Franklin to Elliott, running alongside the creek.

The creekside road in Village Plaza would require joint permission from Regency Centers and East West Partners. Each owns a strip of land on which the 26-foot-wide road would be built. Paul Munana, senior leasing officer at Regency Centers, clarified that his company would not expect to donate the land to the town. Regency Centers would expect to be compensated for giving up the land for the road the town would pay to build. He is in active conversation with East West Partners and town officials about the issue. He further clarified that as landlord to multiple commercial tenants, his company must honor its obligation under those existing leases to not make any changes that could harm business for those tenants.

Across the highway, Rams Plaza is in a different position. The proposed road would divide the property, making it less valuable for resale if the town owned that swath of land. Ted Barnes of August Development, which manages the property for owner Kalikow Group, said that his understanding was that if the red-dotted line is turned into a road, Rams Plaza’s owner would pay for it, maintain it and retain ownership of it. Rams Plaza’s owner would decide how long to keep the road open, and if Kalikow sold the property, the new owner would not be under obligation to keep the road open.

Meanwhile, Dwight Bassett shifted responsibility to Town Council. Nothing will occur in the district without council signing off on the right-of-ways town staff recommend and the contracts for road improvements. He said the recently approved form-based code requires developers to contribute right-of-way for a public street prior to the developer applying for a form-based code permit. Barnes said the right-of-way discussions he is having with Bassett involve land along the property’s edge, which the town has to have before it can apply for a grant to make improvements to the merge of Fordham Boulevard and Franklin Street. Bassett said the town does have the authority to seize land for roads by eminent domain.

Perry, by agreeing to pay for the road (the announcement left unclear whether he would retain the land or cede it to the town), was not throwing in the towel as much as positioning himself as magnanimous, perhaps hoping the town would feel it owed him one. After all, Obey Creek discussions resume soon.
– Nancy Oates

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1 Comment

  1. David Schwartz

     /  July 23, 2014

    Thanks for wading into the weeds on this issue and speaking to the relevant players. Needless to say, the complexities you describe were never presented—as far as I know—during the Ephesus-Fordham hearings. Seems like it could be a long, long time before we ever see the vibrant, walkable, connected urban grid that Mayor Kleinschmidt wants the Ephesus-Fordham district to become. But the harm to local businesses in the district, who are facing substantially increased rents and other challenges, is already occurring. Surely there was a better way to do this.