Metro Realty listened to four hours of testimony last week and came back Wednesday night with a pared down version of its proposed development at the site of the former Kensington Grammar School.
Geoff Sager of Metro Realty detailed how the new plan would have six apartment buildings surrounding the proposed senior housing at KGS instead of eight as originally proposed.
Despite the new plan, each and every speaker during the three and a half hour Special Meeting of the Planning & Zoning Commission, spoke against the proposal, most emphatically.
At 10:30 p.m. the meeting was continued to Tuesday, May 29 at 6 p.m. at McGee Middle School auditorium. Chairman Bruce Moore kept the Public Hearing open since there was a large amount of new information placed into record.
In almost eight hours of testimony before the Commission, not one speaker has spoke in favor of the proposal.
"I understand the sentiment of the neighborhood to save KGS and I know you don't like the market rate apartments but without those apartments I can't make this project work," Sager told the audience of about 300 people. "If I can't build those additional units I can't secure the funding to make this work. With all due to respect to the neighbors, this is a blighted building and is dangerous and a Brownfield. It is deteriorating rapidly and we can't save it without those marketplace buildings."
Despite his plea, one speaker after another came to the podium and shared their concerns and condemned the project.
In what could be an important factor, neighbor Christina Othon presented a petition with more than 1,300 signatures on it. If this petition of neighbors is validated, the Planning and Zoning would have to vote by a 2/3 margin rather than a simple majority to pass the project.
Moore called off a list of speakers who had not already spoken at the first meeting an then allowed those who had new information to speak for the second time on the issue.
Some of the highlights of the testimony:
- "I'm concerned that when they blast the ledge that is near my house that my stone foundation will be cracked. I know they are insured but that blasting will be 65 feet from my house." Tim Landon.
- "My father proposed to my mother on the third brownstone step of KGS. It is part of a neighborhood and this development doesn't fit. How would the Mayor feel if we put 200 parking spaces in his neighborhood where his children play? I don't believe for one minute that Metro Realty cares about KGS. If this building is worth saving why doesn't the town, state and federal government figure out how to save it and fix it. If they can't do that we should tear it down." Roger Peterson.
- "What if the KGS building is not salvageable? What do the developers do then? Do they walk away? We are exchanging one eyesore for another eyesore. I have spent my whole life in Emergency Services and I can tell you those spaces between the buildings and the home will become back alleys. They will become a hazard." Bill Cink.
- "It looks like there will be 21 units per acre in this development. We did not allow the Broadview development an that would have been six units of housing per acre. I would submit that our neighborhood already provides affordable housing in that people can buy homes and their mortgages would be less than the rents here. We have been told that there is an affordable housing complex coming off Metacomet. I'm wondering if we're allowing this to minimize the affect the development on Metacomet. I hope our neighborhood is not being sacrificed." John Coughlin.
- "I would proposed the town consider buying the property from the realtor and build a park and name it for the biggest benefactor this town has ever has Marjorie E. Moore. And we can even use some of her money to do it. We can add on the historical museum and enlarge the bird sanctuary. She would love that," Richard Covini.
- "A lot of people have talked about what if the young professionals do not come and the building is not full. I worry what if they do. If they succeed to get this passed it will be between 57 and 100 new residents in a small area. Are the local schools prepared? Alling Street is already a medium to high traffic street and it would surely get busier. This is not the most appropriate use of the land." Jeff Schuyler.
- "I don't like how they included the church in their presentations. The church has to be large because we are talking about God here. It has to be impressive. The same goes for the school." Richard Landry.
- "What you have seen last week and tonight is exceptional. You have heard from neighbors, people from the church and residents who don't live anywhere near the proposed development. There was repetition because there are issues with density, compatibility, parking, traffic, safety, noise pollution, light pollution and structure of the building among other things. The opposition is clear and this is a phenomenal outpouring of opposition." Attorney Dennis Kern.