By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
GOSHEN — Goshen Redevelopment Commission members Tuesday gave their blessing to an agreement with one of two development groups currently slated to develop a six acre stretch of land along Goshen’s River Race currently owned by the commission.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the commission approved the terms and conditions of an agreement for the sale, purchase and development of what has come to be known as “Area B”, or the northern portion of the six acre property, with David Matthews of South Bend-based Matthews LLC.
In general, the idea behind the property’s development involves both Matthews LLC and a second developer, represented by Goshen resident Richard Miller, contributing to the overall scope of the project, with Matthews LLC developing the northern portion of the site and Miller the southern portion of the site.
For his part, Matthews’ proposal focuses more on a townhouse style of construction, while the Miller proposal draws primarily from the idea of “cohousing”, a type of collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their own neighborhoods.
Through the agreement approved Tuesday, the commission officially affirmed its contract with Matthews, which includes a $100 “purchase price” for the subject real estate at closing, as well as a $500,000 lien on the property the commission will retain in order to ensure Matthews LLC makes the anticipated investments to the property. Closing is currently set for Nov. 15, 2013.
As stated in the agreement, Matthews LLC will now have until Dec. 31, 2020, to develop its portion of the real estate, after which any undeveloped property will revert back to the Redevelopment Commission without cost to the commission.
Tuesday’s approval of the agreement was not without its hiccups, however, with some on the commission raising concerns about a lack of language in the agreement limiting the height of a majority of the townhouse-style buildings being proposed by Matthews LLC.
As stated in the contract, of the three groups of buildings being proposed for the Matthews development — each consisting of four to eight separate residential buildings with a common facade — only the southernmost building would be required to meet the height limitation of an area zoned Residential-1 within the city, while the two northernmost buildings will not be limited in height.
Among the most vocal to oppose the height issue was commission member Jeremy Stutsman.
“I’ve been very vocal the whole time that I do not like three stories,” Stutsman said. “I don’t think they belong there.”
In response to Stutsman’s concerns, Goshen Community Development Director Mark Brinson noted that final architectural approval is granted to the commission through the contract.
“So you still have a checkpoint there where if something comes back, when he gets final designs done, you will have final control over those,” Brinson said. “Then after that, it still has to go to the Plan Commission, so the Plan Commission has to go through the same kind of process, and there will be public hearings on the project and the neighborhood can respond, etc.”
Stutsman also raised some concerns connected to the fact that the contract does not contain any cost estimates for how much the commission may be obligated to pay for its portion of the required development, such as placing a two foot soil cap between the canal bank and western edge of the property, extending and/or constructing water and sewer lines to the property, etc.
“I can’t vote on something I don’t know what we’re agreeing to, as far as money” Stutsman said. “There’s a lot of stuff we need to do, but I don’t even know if we have the money to do it.”
In responding to Stutsman’s concerns regarding funding, commission member Steve Oyer noted that regardless of what development eventually goes in at the River Race property, the commission’s responsibilities toward the property will be the same, and will likely only increase in cost the longer the project is delayed.
Commission President Tom Stump agreed.
“We’re going to have the money for it. I don’t know exactly where it’s coming from, but we’re not in a place where we can stop now,” Stump said. “We’ve got two good projects here. This guy’s ready to go.”
A majority of the commission voiced similar opinions, and a motion was passed four-to-one in favor of affirming the agreement with Mathews LLC. Stutsman’s was the only dissenting vote, with commission members Stump, Oyer, Vince Turner and Laura Coyne voting to affirm the agreement.
As for when the Miller agreement may come up for approval, commission members Tuesday indicated that the agreement will likely come before the commission during its upcoming November meeting.