The 11/24/15 TAPinto Summit story on the Gateway I expansion reported my remarks as:

"Mike Gumport of 104 Bellevue Avenue said the Board currently had no clear understanding of what the developer wanted.”

That is not what I said or meant.

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To clarify, I prefaced my remarks to the Planning Board by saying that I am 100% in favor of the developer being able to build out his property in accordance with the restrictions now in place, essentially the same restrictions in place when the property was purchased. He is facing no hardship.

I went on to state that the developer personally represented to me that:
i) he is entitled to build a three-story garage on the site today absent any zoning change or variances and that, 
ii) absent the grant of a zoning change, he intends to build a three-story garage but that, later, the developer spoke with me again to revise his statement to indicate that
iii) he has concluded that his current building rights are “ambiguous,” and that he is uncertain what he could or would build absent a zoning change.
In the end, the developer said to me that his project and request for rezoning should be judged on its own merits, without consideration of what he is currently able to build “as of right” under existing regulation.

So, we know exactly what the developer wants. What we do not know, and what the developer apparently would prefer not to discuss, is what he is currently able “as of right” to build on the property.  

The point I made at the Planning Board meeting is that, before the city grants a request for a zoning change, it should have a clear idea of what the developer could build today “as of right.” Only by clearly understanding what could be built today, and comparing that to the developer’s request, can everyone (the city, the developer, and the neighbors) all understand the size and value of the gift the city will be granting to the developer through a zoning change, and weigh whether, in return, the city and the neighborhood are receiving a commensurate benefit.

The value to the developer of 300 additional parking spaces (moving from 290 to 590) alone is large (and additional parking spaces represent only a fraction of the added value the developer will enjoy from a zoning change), but it is not at all evident that the added traffic and density will be a benefit to the neighborhood and the city. In fact, it is entirely possible that, while the developer will receive substantial value by building out his property to an extraordinary degree, the neighboring properties for quite some distance will see a marked diminution in value.   

Traffic is just one issue to consider. But, in that regard, it does not take a sophisticated traffic study to understand that parking spaces are only built (they are expensive) if they are planned to be filled, and to fill an extra 300 spaces during the course of 2-3 hours each morning could easily result in well over 100 additional car trips per hour in the area, a major change that will spill traffic onto local residential roads ill equipped to handle the burden.  

After I spoke, I was gratified to hear one or more Planning Board members state that, at the next meeting, board members would indeed like a clear description put forth by the developer, the neighbors, and the city agents as to what exactly could be built on the property “as of right" today.
I think that would be an excellent starting point before any discussion of the merits of any requested zoning changes or variances for the alleged purpose of allowing “better development."

Mike Gumport