At the last APC meeting, the RGAW submitted a very well organized and complete opposition packet to the developer, APC, and city council. To accompany the packet, we filled the Westfield City Hall and organized a variety of speakers, each touching on individual topics. Rory O'Brian, a member of our legal team, took the podium first, and other speakers in our group followed. At completion, Russell Brown, the attorney for the developer, Chris White, offered his verbal praise, recognizing the quality of our submission. Unfortunately, after all of the information offered, neither Russell Brown nor the APC touched on any topics beyond buffering options and the new sub-zoning areas added by Chris White. Our intention and plea to the APC at the meeting was to vote down the current Aurora amendment and send the developer back to the drawing board. Unfortunately, the APC abstained from a vote and suggested we meet with Chris White, along with members of the APC and city council, to discuss our issues with the usage tables. We left a bit defeated, but in RGAW form, we instantly put a game plan in place for the upcoming meeting with the city and the developer. Under a condensed timeline, we worked tirelessly to meet the submission deadline. We decided the best way to illustrate our concerns and demands would be to completely overhaul and redesign the current Aurora PUD amendment. We dissected all the usage tables, per zoning use, and applied strict but reasonable uses to the design, while also eliminating all open industrial. Our research led us to the eco-park concepts that other cities have explored and implemented. The idea is to build an eco-friendly mixed-use park with large green spaces and reforestation buffers that balance with new buildings and structures. This idea creates for a much more aesthetically pleasing project, while also protecting existing wildlife and both wildlife rehab centers in the area. Our reforestation plan helps preserve the wildlife corridors needed for animals to move from the Aurora property to the adjacent Roberts woods. Roberts woods is the largest stand of trees in Hamilton County and harbors a wide variety of wildlife. The reforestation zones are a minimum of 100' and must be planted with larger established trees, both conifer and deciduous. In addition to the reforestation buffers, we have also relocated the retention ponding to extend the buffering further. We felt the addition of the reforestation buffers offset the acreage of the original 24 acre park the developer had removed. With this buffering concept in place, we felt that it was better to remove residential from the project and relocate to the East side of Grassy Branch Rd. This removes a residential zone that was way out of balance with the current residential properties. By relocating, it condenses the residential with other residential onto property currently optioned by the developer, Chris White. This move also makes the residential area more appealing to buyers and will command a higher value home price point. Along with removing the residential, we streamlined the park zoning to include three zones. The three new zones are business park, commerce park, and retail/shops. We condensed the commerce park and extended the business park to meet the standards of the Hwy 31 overlay. We also put height restrictions in place for any areas abutting residential property buffers. This concentrates any taller structures to the center of the property and towards Hwy 31. To address the potential new traffic volumes and patterns, we also created a designated truck route for the park. Taking from the playbook of many other commercial parks we designed a route that enters and exits the property from one point. This route allows access to all necessary areas while restricting truck traffic to any residential areas. As a tool to illustrate these ideas and concepts, we designed a new digital map overlay to help deliver our proposal. This map was designed as a tool, not a final product.
After many late nights and expense, we were prepared for the APC-suggested meeting with the city representatives and Chris White. We submitted our materials Thursday morning before the submission deadline, and tweaked a few details before the next morning’s meeting. At the eleventh hour, Russell Brown and Chris White backed out of the meeting, saying that they needed more time to process our material. We were shocked. The meeting was intended to create a productive environment for all parties to provide feedback for each other. We were not expecting the developer to come to the meeting with final solutions to all of our issues. Upon receiving this bad news, we also were made aware that other parties supposedly invited to attend by Kevin Todd and Russell Brown we never notified of the meeting. It was starting to feel like there was never any intention of having the meeting in the first place. We decided after all of our work and expense we were going to hold up our end of the deal. We were also not going to cancel on all of the city officials we had invited to the meeting. We arrived on time for the Friday meeting prepared to discuss our new proposal. Even though Chris White, Russell Brown, and Kevin Todd were not in attendance, we were still provided with a receptive audience. We had a great meeting with APC members Chris Woodard and Dave Schmitz, as well as RDC member Joe Plankis. All in attendance created a positive, productive environment for us to present our proposal. Invaluable feedback was generated for everyone around the table. After the meeting, we distributed hard copies of our proposal to other city officials and were contacted by others expressing interest in working with us. Unfortunately, the email contact we were waiting for still had not pinged my inbox. After canceling on the meeting we expressed to Russell Brown that we still wanted them to attend the Friday meeting. We felt this meeting was a very important tool in improving the communication between our group and the developer. Needless to say, after multiple emails, we received no response. In our minds, it was a common courtesy to attend the meeting, due to the amount of effort that was put forth to make it happen. The timing for this meeting also comes into play. Everyone agreed we needed to schedule the meeting prior to the submission deadline for the developer, which was December 19th. The idea was that if Russell Brown and Chris White were willing to work with us they would be able to push Aurora off beyond the January 4th APC meeting for a vote. This would give all parties time to continue talks and come up with a solution that benefited everyone.
This brings me to yesterday, Tuesday, December 20th. We finally received a response from Russell Brown. In this email they did not offer to reschedule our meeting, and also informed us that on the Friday of the no-show meeting, they filed their paperwork with city for the January 4th meeting. It strikes me as funny that their excuse for cancelling the meeting was based on lack of time to prepare, but they found time to revise the whole amendment and file with the city on the same day. This basically means they sidestepped our APC recommended meeting and took our materials to interpret without our input. This further reinforces the idea that Chris White has never had any intention of creating a positive communication channel with the impacted residents. All of his interactions have been solely at the request of the city and he has, for the most part, phoned it in. Before I have finished this post we have already put into motion our plan of action for this event. We had hoped Russell Brown and Chris White would not have chosen to take this path, but again, in RGAW form, we are prepared.
*Below is attached link to our proposal packet and map. If you would like a personal copy please let me know and I will email. If you have any questions please let us know. Keep in mind the map is a tool not a final product. Please read text document before trying to digest map.
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