Equity One Sketch Plan Discussion with Robert Kronenberg & John Marcolin, Planning Department
Scope: Current application for Westwood Shopping Center
Where we are in the process:
Right now, we are at the Sketch Plan Process which is the big picture. This looks at compliance with zoning requirements and the Sector Plan. Staff reviews the sketch plan to make sure it satisfies the regulatory requirements and the Board usually has to endorse Staff findings. Staff usually recommends an approval with conditions or a denial to the Planning Board, which is a 5-member panel.
Dec 8 is the scheduled Planning Board meeting – delay from Nov requested by Equity One and staff. As a regulatory item, they cannot take the sketch plan to the planning board until Sectional Map Amendment (SMA) is approved by Council. So if SMA is delayed, the planning board review will delay as well.
Planning Board approves the amenities and the categories of what amenities are chosen. The Sector Plan lays out top priorities for the area. At the Sketch Plan phase, they make sure the amenities are prioritized in accordance with the Sector Plan. Sector plan directs Equity One to specific categories by listing the amenities that are prioritized. Amenities identified by Sector Plan are affordable housing, and public facilities -Willett Branch with Greenway, Ridgefield Rd realignment, and civic green. Equity One chose categories of: Public Facility (civic green), Connectivity & Mobility (Way finding signage, Bikeshare station, Private Shuttle to Metro), Quality Building & Site Design (structured parking), Diversity of Uses & Attractions (MDPUs, Small biz opportunities). Equity One’s sketch plan is missing, as public facilities, Willett Branch and realignment of Ridgefield Rd. Staff has said this twice already and is expecting this to be in the plan.
Most recent Sketch Plan resubmittal did not change a lot. Shows existing buildings that encroach on the steam by American Plant etc. Buffer is typically 100 feet, but it gets expanded based on soils, slope, etc. The 100-foot stream buffer covers a good portion of Westwood 2 building, clips back of HOC building (existing), goes into the parking of Bowlmor site. Sector plan does call out possible encroachment to the buffer – and it is left to Planning Board (and staff review) to determine the acceptable level of encroachment. Their starting point is the 100-foot buffer that is required today. Equity One’s starting point is a smaller buffer, and their current submittal does not show the Willett Branch as a public space. They expect Equity One to provide a dedication of land and a check for Willett Branch greenway/park. Once the land is dedicated, the deed gets transferred to parks dept. There is not necessarily a setback from the dedication land, but parks will take that into consideration. Ecotone is the contractor looking at flood plain.
With the sketch plan, they are not approving building layouts here – but they are reviewing the amenities, including points given and the categories for those.
Green and Open Space:
10% of land is required to be public open space ~90,000 square feet. Planning staff is keeping a close eye to make sure the plan meets this number. Dedication for Willett Branch will be counted as public open space.
Dec 8 is planning board meeting. Staff report is due 10 days before (right around thanksgiving). Before that is posted, communities should talk to staff about concerns, questions, etc. Draft is generally pretty baked about 2 weeks before then. So best bet is to get in touch with them by early November.
Planning board will discuss staff recommendations and may debate some of the issues. They will not necessarily just take the staff recommendation.
The next stage is the Preliminary Plan (Subdivision)
This phase defines where the lots are, where there are dedications… where is the greenway, where is Willett Branch buffer. While a sketch plan would not resolve the buffer in the context of dedication of land, staff & parks department are still working through that to make sure they understand what is needed in the greenway so they get the ‘ask’ right. They have hired a consultant (Ecotone) to look at Willett Branch greenway to develop recommendations for what is needed.
Subdivision phase addresses adequate public facilities (applies the Subdivision Staging Plan). Planning staff has asked for one subdivision for whole area, but expect multiple site plans after the subdivision phase.
Each application goes through Development Review Committee (DRC), comments, review, and then a report with a recommendation from Staff that includes all comments from all agencies. Each application has a planning board hearing.
Site plans are next:
Site plans do not need to be submitted in the order of the sketch plan phasing. They are looking at how the amenities are phased though. Site plan looks at recreation equipment/spaces as well, but will look at the phasing.