Response to Macon Cowles’ Guest Editorial

The major flaw in Macon Cowles analysis is that he actually believes Martin Acres turned back Baseline Zero.  It didn’t. That’s an urban myth and honestly, Cowles ought to know better.  Baseline Zero is likely to be back in as soon as 17 months, as soon as the City’s temporary height moratorium is lifted. The moratorium on building above 35’ is what stopped Baseline Zero.  It wasn’t the neighborhood.  The developer wanted to build up to 55′.  The City passed a two year moratorium on his ability to do that.  (Recall, Cowles voted against the Planning Board’s version of the height moratorium – the version without all the Swiss cheese loopholes.)

In and around the time that the Council’s height moratorium passed, the developer issued two year leases to his current retail tenants at Baseline Zero. Cowles knows nothing about the actual facts of Baseline Zero and the extent to which the neighborhood’s efforts did little but buy a “stay of sentencing.” Martin Acres will undoubtedly have to soon respond to another Baseline Zero proposal from the same developer. The neighborhood asked that the definition of the zoning be followed: “neighborhood-serving retail.” And the developer could have built neighborhood-serving retail under a 35’ cap – you don’t need more than two stories for retail. So the fact that he withdrew it under the height moratorium actually suggests that the neighborhood isn’t going to get anything that’s neighborhood-serving – only a 55’ office park and hotel. And Cowles calls this positive?

The even larger point is this is a classic “mis-direct” by an artful attorney. The point of the Neighborhood initiative was never to vote on projects. It’s to have an appeal vote in cases where an entire neighborhood is up-zoned or re-zoned by the City. So Cowles’ listing of 10 projects is nothing more than a list of 10 projects that would NOT be the subject of the Neighborhood initiative. It’s a total non-sequitur by one of the most development-friendly, pro-growth members of City Council, who is leaving office on a “scorched earth” policy and hovering very close to crossing the line as an elected official. Council said they would not take a position on the initiatives.

So we have….a broken Council agreement, a total non-sequitur mis-direct by an “artful” attorney, a total mis-representation of Martin Acres’ actual situation relative to Baseline Zero?  It’s worth considering these points when you read Cowles’ editorial.