$18M project denied after unexpected discussion, vote

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An $18 million, four-story project at the heart of Westfield was voted down June 8 by the Westfield City Council after a late change to the meeting’s agenda brought the EdgeRock Development proposal to a vote.

EdgeRock Managing Director Birch Dalton had planned 90,000 square feet for approximately 100 apartment units for seniors and local workforce housing on three floors above first floor retail space of 30,000 square feet, immediately east of Riverview Hospital.

The proposal originally was to be discussed at the June 8 meeting, but was removed from the agenda at the request of Dalton. At meeting time, members of the council voted to add the petition – a rezone of the property to put the project in compliance – back to the agenda, at the request of Councilor Mike Johns.

With councilor Joe Edwards absent, only councilors Jake Gilbert and Scott Willis voted in favor of the rezone request and project, leaving the final vote at 4-2 against it.

The project received a positive recommendation to the council June 3 from the Westfield Advisory Plan Commission, and an initial iteration of the proposed project from 2014 originally received full council support.

Willis and Gilbert let their frustration be known with the approval process be known during the conference-call meeting.

“I’m not a fan of this development, I’m even less of a fan of the original development, and I’m not sure why we approved that to begin with….But, if we vote this down, we go back to the original (planned unit development), and I think that the second (version) that’s in front of us is a better project. It has better tax revenue generation for the city,” Willis said during the meeting. “I know I did not do a thorough analysis of this PUD, because once I knew he was pulling it, I just didn’t give it the consideration. I just don’t like this way this feels with this last-minute change and throwing it out there for a vote.”

Councilor Cindy Spoljaric, who voted against the petition, said she was familiar with the proposal when it went through the APC, a board on which she sits.

“Adding an extra story (to the original plan) does really impact the neighbors to the east,” she said at the meeting. “I have more concerns that the PUD doesn’t have standards for a parking structure. So, as I started to think about this and how it could develop, there’s actually very little that we understand about what could actually happen with this building…There are a multitude of reasons that I don’t think this is ready, and I don’t think this is the right project for (this location) at this time.”

Councilor Jake Gilbert responded by making clear his issue with taking a vote that night.

“Whether we vote it up or down, I thought there would be more time to explore some the outstanding questions (related to parking, traffic, scale),” Gilbert said during the meeting. “If I knew we were voting tonight, I guess I would have made better contact and done a better job serving the citizens. I’ve just never seen anything like this; I think it’s a bush-league process…I think it’s disrespectful. For us to put this back (up to a vote) after it was pulled, I just have zero understanding of how that’s quality government.”

Because the council voted down the proposal, the plot of land will revert back to the original PUD. Councilors said they expect Dalton will rework his plans for the site and go back through the APC process for approval.

This story will be updated.

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