Monday, January 14, 2013

McCann Opposition to APC New Chauncey Land Use Plan

I commend the APC for its efforts. However, the plan in its current form contains a major flaw that needs to be corrected before approval. In Chapter 4 (“Implementation”), the plan describes a strategy to “focus all residential density increases along the Northwestern and Fowler corridors” (p. 47). 

Each of the Steering Committee members, including myself, would undoubtedly support this statement. However, in the proposed land use map, we see significant increases in density extending far beyond what a reasonable person would consider a “corridor.” The APC reports that approximately one-sixth of the neighborhood that is currently oriented towards single-family homes would be given over to extensive higher-density development – a strikingly large portion of New Chauncey. 

Indeed, the western and southern parts of the neighborhood would no longer be envisioned as family-focused. Rather than seeking to renovate homes, many of which are historically significant, the emphasis in the proposed land use map is on tearing down and replacing with dense development in Blocks 1-15, 20-22, and 26-28. This is not the way to create and sustain a “community of choice” for family residents and students who prefer not to live in densely populated apartment complexes. 

The disconnect between the “implementation” statement on p. 47 and the proposed land use designations on p. 75 came about through a regrettable change in Steering Committee procedures. 

When I agreed to serve on the committee, it was with the understanding that the proposed land use plan would be a consensus document. This premise was reinforced in the third community forum on November 7, 2012, when both Loren King and I stressed to attentive but wary neighbors that no decisions would be taken without the full support of all six voting members, four of whom had substantial commercial interests in New Chauncey and two of whom were long-term residents. Unfortunately, at the most recent Steering Committee meeting the APC suspended the rule of consensus and assigned block designations through simple majority votes. 

This allowed the four committee members whose interests in the neighborhood are primarily financial to form into a majority voting bloc. In general, whenever there was a disagreement over the designation of a block – something that happened about 20-25% of the time – the outcome was to allow for higher densities. These decisions were nearly always determined through a 4-2 margin, with Peter Bunder, the other long-term resident on the committee, and me in the minority. 

There is an opportunity now to revise the land use map so that it conforms to the implementation statement on p. 47. Reject the current draft and allow the Steering Committee to revisit the issue of block densities, so that all residential density increases are truly focused “along the Northwestern and Fowler corridors.” If the Steering Committee is reconvened, a decision rule of unanimity should be reinstated. I would be happy to continue serving on this committee, and I anticipate that only one additional meeting would be necessary. 

This additional step would ensure that the outcome is perceived as fair and representative, not only to the New Chauncey community but also to residents in other parts of the city who are watching this planning process closely.

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