Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Riverfront And Aetna Property At Economic Development Commission Tonight

The agenda for EDC tonight includes two items that will have long-term effects on the city.

The "Aetna Property"
Since Aetna decided to demolish its 1.3 million-square-foot building in 2010, the company and the city have been seeking another use for the 260 acre parcel on Middle Street in Westfield. Recently, FedEx Ground filed an application to build a distribution center on this property.

The Economic Development Commission is likely to consider tax abatements for FedEx Ground. In 2010, the Aetna property had an assessed value of $216M, and contributed over $5.5M to the municpal budget.

The Riverfront
The Commission will consider taking the first step towards hiring a firm to develop a detailed plan for development of the Riverfront, as well as zoning code text changes to implement it.

This would not be the first plan or the first zoning code text changes for Riverfront redevelopment. The New York firm, Project for Public Spaces, submitted a 39 page report in June of last year, paid for by the city. It called for a mix of public and private development along the river that would encourage multiple uses. During the year since the submission of that report, the Planning and Zoning Commission considered zoning code text changes to encourage such development.  Republicans on P&Z blocked their approval.

While this was being blocked, Republicans on the Council prepared an ordinance calling for a new study, called a Master Plan, and new zoning code language to implement it. This is what will be considered by EDC tonight.

If it is approved, the City Planner would draft specific language for a Request for Proposals (RFP), the EDC would consider this language and authorize funds to pay for the Master Plan. The money and language would need to be approved by Council. When the commissioned report is completed, any proposed zoning code text changes would have to be voted on by P&Z.

EDC meets at 7:00PM in Room 208 of City Hall.
Disclaimer:  I am an elected Democratic member of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

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