Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A sorry lesson

I don't like to get political in this space, but I just have to say that I am disappointed by local government. My school district and my city. Certainly, they have done some very good things. But when it comes to a prime and public piece of real estate, they have failed miserably.

And yet, maybe the public has a role here as well. We ALL have been terrible stewards of the Milford Main School. All talking about how important is it, but doing little to change anything. Yes, there was
an advisory committee that trumpets how it
made the recommendation some years ago for the district to divest itself of the building and even some ideas on repurposing it. However, the district always seemed clear it was not their job to re-purpose and has limped along thanks to tenants who discovered the charming, if less than perfect, and reasonably priced space. We're here to educate, they sing, while constructing new elementaries and upgrading other buildings. They have an operations manager.

For years, I have heard the city was offered the building and declined, yet council has voted to purchase and raze a downtown gas station for parking and a building at the Little Miami Trail head.

And the public LOVES the building, yet any recent effort to do anything with it has been invisible. Years of talk and inaction bring us to where we are now: at the knees of a developer who insists on a density higher than typically allowed, and a new zoning. Why the zoning variance for the higher density was approved, 3-2, before the actual zone change (from institutional to multi-family) seems so backward and reactionary to me. We have a city admitting they are deciding development issues on a case-by-case basis, abandoning and having not renewed a 1997 land-use plan in which the community participated.

I sat through three-plus hours of an initial public hearing in which the clear majority of speakers, yes mainly affected residents, objected to the density and massiveness of the proposed 92-apartment structure for seniors. I understand there was standing-room only at the last hearing and yet the project was approved.

Now on to city council Feb. 3

The developer has gone to great lengths to find a suitable project that meets a need, makes money, complements his Riverwalk development and is palatable enough to get approved. He has said he desires the highest and best use. I say the city ought to be looking for the best use. This has been public property after all to which many children have had access for running around at recess, playing in the gaga pit, tossing some baskets, riding bikes and skateboards. Not to mention church and event parking. That will be reduced to a 4,000 square-foot triangle at the five points intersection and 190 parking spaces to be shared by 92 one-to-three bedroom units and the churches.

The two affected churches have written letters of support of the project to the city. I was somewhat surprised. The developer approached me, too, and I politely declined. It's a lovely project, but I am not sure this is the best plan for this site.

If things progress surprisingly swiftly as they have and the measure moves through council so easily, we'll have to accept this major change in our neighborhood. I certainly hope it fills a need, is successful and accommodates seniors, otherwise it will be marketed to whomever can afford the $1200-$1500 monthly rent.

I hope we learn the lesson of what happens when we are reactive, not proactive here. Had we been proactive, there would be a new plan designating a very studied and beneficial use for the land that benefits all. And, if a developer came along and deviated, s/he could be denied. Better yet, maybe we'd be planning a community center funded by a bond issue, grants and private donations that we could all enjoy.

It's not too late for other properties such as the former Millcroft Inn and vulnerable, historic landmarks.

Sadly, even though 46 students trudge in every weekday with their teachers, aides, principal and staff, the St. Andrews kids storm in lunch and the hand full of artists still make art, Main has lost it's shine. The 1912 portion of the building I occupy is never cleaned unless I do it, all sorts of inspectors and workmen stomp in leaving their trash, dirty footprints, disturbing me by helping themselves to my studio and poking holes in walls looking for asbestos, leaving swirls of dust and debris. And no one else cares.

That's a sorry lesson to convey to Artsy Fartsy kids: that no one else cares about the space that has been sacred for us. They already typically feel as if no one cares. On the upside, it's not about the location, our efforts and energy will thrive other places.

If you have an opinion, write city council or attend the Feb. 3 meeting when it will be discussed.

Listen to this post:

No comments:

Post a Comment