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Be Careful What You Wish For

“[Westfield] has never been a place where the alleged political policy of the dollar before the man, or commercialism before the soul has been the paramount issue.” (Our Westfield, page 24). Yet, today we’re fairly certain this is exactly what is occurring. Having created a monster by overvaluing land and subsequently overspending on projects, Westfield is faced with a huge redevelopment conundrum.

A small faction of residents toiled for years attempting to attract area residents and tourists from Grand Park to downtown Westfield. Grand Park’s principal debt ($57M) will pale in comparison to the cost of Grand Junction and Old Town Design Group’s “new vision” of downtown Westfield called Union Square. (And they’ll do it all on about 12 acres of land combined! Far less than Grand Park’s 400 acres.) The City, in every effort to make this a “go,” will give away through public-private partnership, land and parking, infrastructure, design and investment costs, subsidies and incentives; close to $100 Million dollars to make their inorganic dreams come true.

Approximately 30 years behind Carmel in development and maybe 20 years behind Fishers, the administration asks you to buy into the planned unit development. Grand Junction, the widening of State Road 32 and Union Square are all positioned on timelines that indicate everything will be completed (or close to it) by 2023.

“Westfield was laid out in May 1834 by Quakers. The stability they gave the town in the old days is its charm today.” (Our Westfield, page 24.) Underlying zoning indicates Westfield’s downtown should remain the central business district in the future to avoid destroying the integrity of its historic district status. This zoning (LB-H) “provides for the preservation, restoration, adaptive use and/or reconstruction of properties and historic buildings in the district.” Added to the National Register of Historic Places by the National Parks Department just this year, Westfield stands to lose several of its buildings and an historic bridge should this plan proceed.

The Westfield Preservation Alliance made the following statement, “We urge residents to join in opposing this PUD which is in contradiction to historical preservation. WPA promotes preservation, revitalization and growth in our community. We encourage residents to engage neighbors and engineers in the evaluation and integrity of existing buildings.” They are doing so through the circulation of a petition addressed to Westfield City Council. In the meantime, in a press release, Justin Moffett, a partner with Old Town states, “Our goal for Union Square is to create a small village architecturally with buildings that look as if they’ve been there for 100 years.” The majority of which are apartment buildings with retail and commercial space below and echo an area of our neighbors to the south; certainly not the quaint comparison to Zionsville that Council members and the community seem to prefer. Much to Mr. Moffett’s credit, he held a great informational meeting and answered all the questions from the small audience as best he could. Additionally, he has promised to take comments and suggestions from the community. What’s the problem you ask? Developer Agreements aren’t public information and this PUD is headed to the Advisory Planning Commission on Tuesday for a public hearing.

What are we to do now? Here’s a recommendation from someone who’s really admired in our community; plant some grass and trees, make a nice gathering place downtown and wait for the right time. Keep the money, pay down the debt and wait for growth to come to Westfield through private investment.

With hundreds of acres of development being introduced shortly and the upcoming approval of Midtown at Westfield, why are the taxpayers of our fair city being asked to again shoulder the burden? The answer is simple; because Westfield isn’t ready. Union Square isn’t happening organically. It’s contrived and being forced upon Westfield's taxpayers by an administration that insists on another economic driver to satisfy the Sub-Districts Comprehensive Plan Addendum by a few who don’t hold on to their money or their history very conservatively.

A public hearing for Union Square is scheduled at the Advisory Planning Commission meeting this Tuesday, September 3rd at 7 pm at City Hall. The full agenda is available here.

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