On January 25, 2017, the Batavia Plan Commission, by a vote of 4-2, sent a negative recommendation to the City Council for the massive, 186-unit apartment complex proposed for downtown Batavia. They thought it was too big and recommended against its approval by Council unless it was stepped down in height to River St. in particular, so it would not be so overbearing. They did not think the proposal as presented was appropriate for the downtown, and were not willing to grant the many zoning code variances the developer, Shodeen, sought.
However, the Plan Commission repeatedly pointed out the City Council has the final say and can overrule the Plan Commission’s decision. And there is every indication the City Council is prepared to do just that. That’s why we need a groundswell of people to speak up and ask the Council to represent the will of their constituents, as they were elected to do. The Plan Commission had listened to the many people who spoke at the public hearings, and combined with their own many hours of investigation, deliberation, and good common sense, voted against the proposed development. Will the City Council now do the same?
There has been a report of a concerted effort to get the project’s supporters to contact the City Council and urge them to overrule the Plan Commission. If you do not like the idea of a massive apartment complex at Washington and Wilson, the City Council needs to hear from you.
1. Even if you have emailed or spoken to the Council before, please contact them again. Please email right now (so you don’t forget later), and ask them simply to heed their Plan Commission’s recommendation and not allow the project to move forward as it stands now. Click the “City Council” button at right to email the Mayor and whole City Council. There are also phone numbers on the City’s website (click on an alderman’s name) for follow up phone calls with your ward’s aldermen if you so desire, or to pass on to neighbors who may not have computers.
2. Attend the Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting, if you can, next Tuesday, Feb. 7, 7:30 pm, City Hall, and voice your concerns in person. Do this in addition to emailing, as the email is good for them to digest at their own pace, but your presence gives a face to the words, and reminds them there are people, not just number counts, who will be affected by this. Even a simple, “My name is ____________. I live at ___________. Please listen to the Plan Commission. I agree it’s too big,” would be great.
3. If they do vote at the COW to overrule the Plan Commission, it is not final until approved at a City Council Meeting, likely at the next one after Tuesday’s COW, scheduled for Monday, Feb. 20, 7:30pm. Mark your calendar and plan to attend if they vote Tuesday night to push this through. That meeting will be recorded on BATV. It will be your last chance to make a stand.
4. Share this information with friends and neighbors. Please set a goal to contact 6 people via email, phone, or knocking on doors, and ask those who are receptive to do the same.
Some background information you may want to use in your comments to the Council:
The City Council usually makes a point of respecting the decisions of their commissions, otherwise, what’s the point of commissions? On November 21, 2016, the Council addressed another apartment complex proposed for the site of the old water tower at the corner of Wilson and Spuhler (just east of the Ace Hardware, on the south side of the street). The Plan Commission then too sent a negative recommendation to the Council because it was too big, too dense for the area, and too many variances were requested–much like the 1 N. Washington project. Nearby home owners had objected, and the Commission agreed it did not fit the neighborhood. The Council supported the Plan Commission’s recommendation and told the developer they would reconsider it if he scaled down the project. Alderman Brown described it as, “…way too much on that piece of property, and he’s asking for way too many variances. It does not complement the neighborhood…” They had known it was possible the developer would walk away (he did), since he had said it needed to be that big to make it economically feasible–the same argument Shodeen is using. The Council did not allow the developer to dictate to the City what would be built, but asked that the developer conform to the ordinances of the City of Batavia. You can ask the Council to do the same here and follow the precedent they had set just weeks before. And in the Spuhler case, only 5 residents spoke against it, whereas many more residents have spoken against the Shodeen project.
The Plan Commission had obviously put a lot of time and effort into this project, taking their own pictures of other Shodeen apartment complexes, drawing their own computer models to demonstrate the sheer size of the building and how it would look relative to the other buildings downtown. They all wanted to see development in the area, but not this one as it was presented to them. They even made suggestions to Shodeen for what they could do to change the design to make it more acceptable. A video of the Plan Commission meeting can be found here.
If you want to see a 3D model of the building size in relation to the rest of downtown, go to 1:05:04 in the video. The developer’s version starts at 1:12:42. Those gray buildings in the first view from S. River St are the existing buildings on the corner of River and Wilson (dance studio, etc.) being dwarfed.