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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Public voices mixed opinions on River Race redevelopment

Goshen panel will likely vote on pair of housing proposals next month.

Posted on May. 14, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on May. 14, 2013 at 6:56 p.m.

GOSHEN — Opinions on which proposal for the development of the area along the River Race were varied Tuesday, May 14, at the monthly meeting of Goshen’s Redevelopment Commission.

A few dozen residents were in attendance to voice their support for either a co-housing development led by Richard Miller Construction of Goshen or an urban housing development from Matthews LLC, located in South Bend.

The first several residents to speak suggested the Miller proposal would be the better choice for the area, citing such reasons as similarity to the surrounding neighborhood and the Matthews proposal’s obstruction of their view of the canal and surrounding scenery.

“Goshen’s human scale and preservation of neighborhoods are critical issues for the River Race residential redevelopment project,” Ann Kauffman said. “At 44 feet high, (Matthews’) row of three-story town houses ... would create a towering wall that would negatively impact and be incongruent with the Shanklin Park-Millrace neighborhood.”

Kauffman added that the size of the urban housing would also “detract from the natural environment for users of the Millrace Trail,” and that the size of the units in the Miller proposal would fit in better with the surrounding neighborhood.

“I want to strongly urge you to support the Miller team proposal,” resident Maynard Kurtz said. “It grew out of a desire and a felt need for a specific kind of housing on the part of current residents of the Shanklin-Millrace neighborhood.”

Supporters of the Matthews proposal, however, stated that the town houses’ unique size in the area would be a benefit to the neighborhood, bringing a different style to the area.

“I understand the concern in terms of the tallness of the structures, but I also don’t think that we want just another place in Goshen that’s like all the other places in Goshen,” said Bruce Stahly.

Several people that had previously worked with Dave Matthews of Matthews LLC spoke to vouch for his skill and work ethic and noted past success in St. Joseph County would translate to the River Race area as well.

Mayor Allan Kauffman added another wrinkle to the discussion, noting the units in the Matthews proposal would create more value in regards to the city’s tax base.

“I hope that the Redevelopment Commission doesn’t dismiss the Matthews plan because there’s a lot of local folks that speak about the relationship with the existing neighborhood,” Kauffman stated. “We also have to think, in these days of tax caps, about how we maximize the value of the properties in value that we’re rebuilding.

“I just don’t want to see the townhouse concept dismissed entirely.”

Adam Scharf suggested the commission look at working with both Miller and Matthews to work out a solution where both would have a hand in redeveloping the area.

“I would hope that you might consider the option of going back and negotiating with both parties,” he said. “I think there would be some potential for coming to a shared vision where a lot of the positives of both could actually be implemented.”

Scharf said he would encourage the commission to vote both proposals down at the next meeting as presented and try to work out a compromise.

With voting on the proposals likely to come at the June meeting, commission president Tom Stump said that the commission would not likely take verbal comments at that time. He did say, however, that commissioners would accept written comments any time before that meeting.

The next meeting of the redevelopment commission is scheduled for June 11.

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