FARMINGTON – After a developer’s project was stalled by a staff report that encouraged elected officials to reject the development for procedural reasons, the developer has received a public apology from the mayor along with an admission that the staff had been incorrect.
The Haws Company plans to capitalize on the excitement surrounding the Station Park project and hopes to bring a new retail development, including a McDonald’s restaurant, to the west side of Park Lane.
Following a frustrating experience before the council members and mayor last month, The Haws Companies representatives were treated to an apology from the mayor at the beginning of their most recent presentation. The developer had felt that he was “blind-sided” at the previous meeting when the city staff recommended that his project be rejected due to the lack of a master plan submission.
However, after later speaking with the city attorney, it was determined that the proper submissions had been made, and that the staff’s judgment was incorrect.
Going forward with bringing their plan to the table, developer representative Scott Harwood thanked the mayor for his apology.
“We are excited to dive into the details tonight,” Harwood said. “We’ve spent the last year looking through this, and we feel this plan is a great draw to this area”.
At the core of the excitement for the developer is a commitment from McDonald’s to begin construction at the earliest possible date in the retail zone, which will be known as The Park Lane Commons. Acknowledging that the property in question is “an odd shape”, Harwood asked the council to consider the time that had been spent in preparing a feasible plan that will “capture the momentum that has occurred at Station Park”.
At the center of the overall project is an iconic tower that the developer envisions as a space for civic gatherings, as well as a grand promenade that leads to the recently completed Park Lane Village condominiums. A letter from the condo property management company to city leaders shared support for the mixed-use development, which would literally be at the front door of the homeowners, and encouraged the city to proceed.
Staffers were still concerned that much of the proposed plan did not fit the guidelines in the current form-based zoning codes to ensure “pedestrian walkability,”as well as “transit-oriented development.” However, the staff asked for the council to determine whether those issues could be addressed on a case-by-case basis, and if so to give direction for how plans should proceed.
Christy Alexander spoke on behalf of the Community Development office, whose reports stirred so much concern.
“We are not against the development, but we are concerned with the city’s original general plan which says new development needs to promote the community in a positive and progressive manner,” she said. “We expect more than just a conventional suburban shopping mall. We do want to maintain the strong transit oriented center, and we would like to see a more creative design”.
Councilman Cory Ritz made a motion to accept the recommendation for proceeding with a development agreement between The Haws Company and the city. Within that recommendation, he stated that the findings show that value would be added to the city and the immediate neighborhood surrounding the development. Additionally, the findings indicate that there is potential for a high-quality gathering place within the plaza with an open feel and visibility.
Ritz’s motion, as unanimously approved, now gives city staff permission to move forward with planning the final site plan with the developer within the bounds of a formal development agreement. The next stage is for the planning commission to review all site plans and make recommendations to the city council for final approval.