May 1, 2003
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Planners give 1st approval of Hull Court development

The Village Planning Commission on Monday unanimously approved the site development plan for the Hull Court Community, which will be located on the west side of Xenia Avenue between Allen and Herman Streets.

Commission’s recommendation sends the development plans on to Village Council, which has final say over the plan. Council will hold a first reading at its meeting May 5, then a second reading sometime in June, Village Manager Rob Hillard said.

Site developer Ted Donnell, the president of Axis Architecture, said he was pleased with Planning Commission’s discussion, which took place at a special meeting April 28.

“I was tickled to death with the way it went last night,” Donnell said Tuesday. “It’s refreshing to have the process work the way it’s intended to work.”

The first public hearing held two weeks ago to discuss the three-acre development got tense when commission members tried to review the site plans without technical and legal advice from field experts.

At Monday’s meeting, the commission invited Assistant Village Solicitor Drew Gleason and environmental engineer John Eastman of Lockwood, Jones and Beal, Inc. to provide consultation.

“I credit Rob and his ability to bring in John Eastman and the solicitor and allow them as professionals to address the issues as needed,” Donnell said.

Planning Commission added a few conditions to its recommendation, urging that the final plans for infrastructure, such as parking, water and sanitary systems and stormwater retention, conform with public standards at the time of construction. The recommendation also urged Donnell to clarify the time ownership will be transferred from his firm to a homeowner’s association, the body responsible for maintaining the 10-house community’s utilities and common areas.

Several Hull Court neighbors brought additional concerns about the potential effects of the development on their properties. Arnold Pence, whose farm property borders the back of the proposed community, suggested that the association should be held responsible in the form of a bond to maintain the stormwater drainage system and prevent water from leaching onto his property.

Gleason assured residents that they would have legal recourse if the association failed to maintain the drainage system. Eastman noted that because the surrounding areas have a history of flooding, project engineers designed the drainage system with a capacity to hold more water than typically collects on both the Hull Court parcel and on several of the neighboring properties. He estimated the drainage system would be more than ample for the entire Hull Court neighborhood.

“We’re not just taking care of our stormwater, we’re also taking on all the surrounding properties’ and the neighbors’ stormwater,” Donnell said after the meeting. “Give me credit for taking care of a problem that’s been created over the past.”

Other neighbors’ concerns about the site plan were addressed to the commission’s satisfaction during the meeting, members said.

Planning Commission has not deliberated on site plan reviews very often, Hillard said, noting that the commission did its best to do a thorough review of the development plans. The very nature of the site plan review process was written into the Village Zoning Code a decade ago to encourage innovative low-cost building projects, he said, and the fact that plan board has now gone through a site plan review will speed up future reviews.

But Donnell believes the Zoning Code should be amended to spare commission members the burden of evaluating complex engineering plans that are, he said, detailed beyond their expertise.

“Ultimately we will see a change in how the local Zoning Code is written,” he said. “Planning Commission is in a position where they have to make these technical decisions that are way over their heads, and it’s not their job to be qualified for that.”

Donnell said that he will continue working with the community to meet the requirements for the final project approval.

“This particular development is without a doubt the most sustainable community this village has ever seen,” he said. “We all have the same goal, to create a nice project and have the health and safety of the community enhanced by doing it.”

—Lauren Heaton