April 11, 2006

Dear Planning Commission Members:

I am writing regarding an item on this evening’s agenda, the proposed Franklin Street PUD.  Developers from outside of the neighborhood intend to shoehorn as many units as possible onto a small residential lot, cramming them between a steep embankment and the backyards of two beautiful old houses on Market Street.

Prior to, and during the sale of this .8 acre lot, Dr Greg Gelburd, the owner of one of the above-mentioned adjoining homes, had put in an offer on that piece of land.  The offer was accepted by the seller and a contract was faxed to Dr Gelburd.  All that remained that afternoon was for him to get his wife’s signature as soon as she came home from work.  However, he received a call 30 minutes after his offer was accepted telling him that the sellers had received a higher offer from unknown developers and that they had changed their minds.  The implications were quite alarming considering the reasons each of the potential purchasers wanted the property in the first place.  While yanking the rug out from under Dr Gelburd was legal under current law, it was by no means the just and right thing to do, especially when you consider the future impact this will have on his quality of life, and that of his neighbors

Dr Gelburd’s intention was to retain the green space that is so important to the entire neighborhood.  If anything were to ever be built there, it would be a single-family dwelling in keeping with the rest of the neighborhood.  Subsequently, Dr Gelburd has tried to buy that parcel from the developers in order to protect his home and the homes of adjoining neighbors.  The developers have turned down his offer because they stand to make quite a profit off of the backyards of Dr Gelburd and his neighbors.

I am providing you with some of the backstory of the parcel in question to illustrate the point that Dr Gelburd, like many in the Woolen Mills, has been willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that we have a say in the future of our neighborhood.  We go to sleep here, and wake up here, and raise our families here.  We do what we can to make this neighborhood a better place to live, and that includes preserving its uniquely large lots and green spaces.  Whatever these developers end up building, they aren’t the ones that will have to live with it every hour of every day.  No amount of lip service paid by Franklin LLC to our neighbors will change that fact.

The unique rural nature of the Woolen Mills is one of the main reasons most of us have chosen to live here.  Our 2001 neighborhood plan reflects this viewpoint and also that we have, in fact, long been requesting downzoning.  While infill is a solid idea in the right place, these particular developers didn’t do their homework before targeting a neighborhood that is moving in the opposite direction from the one they are proposing.

Please consider this proposed PUD carefully, because it will set the standard for the other outside developers who are waiting in the wings to make a buck off of our neighborhood.  PUDs have been seen as trendy and cute, the latest buzzword in development.  Planners generally have tended to love them.  But we have to ensure that this doesn’t start a process that ends with our neighborhood getting steam-rolled by other people’s visions for our future.  As cute and trendy as a PUD might be to some, the sobering fact is that it isn’t being built in the planner’s back yard, or the developer’s either.

Thank you for listening,

Victoria B Dunham
2000 Marchant Street
Woolen Mills Neighborhood