It was standing-room only in Brent Warner Fest Hall on July 24 as the community came together to discuss large-scale hotel and apartment projects currently making their way through the German Village Commission.
Nearly 200 people showed up to have their voices heard, share ideas, and to learn more about the various roles different entities play in such projects.
The German Village Society put together a panel to first outline the basic facts. German Village Society Historic Preservation Advocate Nancy Kotting outlined the most recent conceptual-review materials presented by three major projects.
Details and links to resources from the meeting are on our website, germanvillage.com. The entire meeting was broadcast on Facebook Live and can be viewed on our Facebook page.
About two dozen people came to the microphone to express concerns, ask questions to clarify presentations points and share ideas. Here are some key takeaways for which the crowd was asking for Society leadership:
* Parking. German Village can't absorb more parking variance requests.
* Height. German Village guidelines state, "The design of a new building should take into consideration the height of adjacent structures, as well as the range of heights of structures on the block."
* Massing. Several people responded negatively to the drawings presented of the projects, stating they don't reflect the neighborhood.
* Advocacy. There was great conversation about how to create a useful strategy among the entire community to respond to large-scale projects. Board clarity is first and foremost, followed by more voices at meetings putting statements into the record, and coaching about how to put written statements into the record.
* Cooperative process. Several speakers came forward to suggest that a cooperative process will be best received by the city -- trying to find the win-win sweet spot.
* Legal advice. A number of speakers asked the Society to consider hiring legal counsel to be ready to act if needed and to guide the strategy of advocacy.
So, what are our next steps? The board held a conference call the morning of July 25 to talk about what actions to take.
* A letter from the Society's Board of Trustees to the German Village Commission outlining community concerns and stating sections of the guidelines and/or city code that correspond. The board will write one letter related to the hotel project and one letter related to the apartment project.
* A community-led effort to coordinate presentations at the Aug. 7 German Village Commission meeting as it relates to each project. The outcomes might include letters for Villagers to write to put themselves on the record even if they can't attend, as well as preparation about how to use each 3-minute testimony allotment before the Commission to maximum impact.
* Engaging the Civic Relations Committee in two primary ways -- work their networks using the Board's letter to get the German Village talking points into the ears of decision-makers and create a template outline communication, advocacy, community meetings, direct contact with officials, etc., for the Society to follow when these projects come up.
Here, too, the Civic Relations Committee is open for anyone to attend.
* Because of interest from neighbors, the Society will explore the appropriate role of an attorney in these processes.
* Ask developers -- and back it with city input -- to provide traffic and/or parking studies related to their variance requests.
* Clearer communication on Society platforms about issues coming before the Commission and ways the public can be on the record.
* Ongoing education on Kotting's blog about commission, zoning, variance requests, appeals process, advocacy and more.
German Village Society Executive Director Shiloh Todorov submitted the Village Notebook column .