Plan for BRT medical office complex rejected
The Town Plan and Zoning Commission pulled the plug Tuesday on a proposal to build two medical office buildings where the now-closed Plant Factory stands on upper Black Rock Turnpike.
The commission voted unanimously to deny New Way LLC's application to change a portion of the property at 4185 Black Rock Turnpike from a AAA residential zone to Neighborhood Designed Business District, which would have allowed plans for the project to proceed. The property is adjacent to the Merritt Parkway's southbound entrance ramp at the Exit 44 junction.
Factors cited by TPZ members in denying the application include improper notice given to neighbors about the plans, the impact of increased traffic on the neighborhood and property values, and the size of the proposed structures.
While the motions normally considered by the commission are whether to approve an application, according to Commissioner James Kennelly, he structured the motion to deny the application. "I'm bringing out a motion to reject this," he said. "I think it's important to send a message here."
He said the regulations state such design districts are to provide services to the local neighborhood, and a project that would be twice the size of the Hi-Ho Motel across the street is "not meant for the neighborhood, it's for the region."
The proposal included three separate applications -- for the zone change, for a zoning amendment to allow parking in front of the building and for a special permit. With the denial of the zone change, the other applications were rendered moot and were also unanimously denied.
TPZ Vice Chairman Seth Baratz said he doesn't believe that a medical office building -- he said the project would really have been a clinic -- would be allowed in the NDBD, and Commissioner Matthew Wagner said he didn't think the application complied with the regulations and showed a specific need for the size and scope proposed.
While the commission did not approve any aspect of the proposal, the building's design by architect Jack Franzen drew praise.
"I really appreciated the design of this building," Wagner said. However, the commissioner said, it was the wrong building for the Black Rock Turnpike property.
The application drew both support and opposition not only from neighbors living close by but also from residents of the town's Southport section who felt it would only open the door for other NDBD to face similar proposals and changes.
"I think the commission did a very thorough job in considering all the aspects of this application," said Joel Green, the lawyer who represented the Greenfield Hill Village Improvement Association in its opposition to the application.
"Obviously, we're very pleased the application has been denied," Green said.