Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Look at the Stroudwater Place Contract Zone

Here's a quick review of Stroudwater Place's Contract Zone, which was unanimously approved by the Westbrook City Council Monday night:

Permitted Uses
A list of thirty-nine permitted uses that range from adult daycare to a veterinary office. The definitions of fifteen of these uses can be found on pages six and seven in the online version of the contract zone.

Minimum Building Setbacks
The buildings must be at least twenty feet removed from the Westbrook arterial, twenty feet removed from side property lines, and two-hundred feet removed from Stroudwater Street.

Maximum Height
The maximum height of any building is seventy-five feet. However, it does note the maximum height is "exclusive of architectural features which may, upon approval of the design by the Planning Board during site plan review, extend above the roof of the building provided such architectural features do not increase habitable space."

Which I interpret to mean the building can be prettified more than seventy-five feet off the ground, but that extra height cannot be functional.

Maximum Gross Density
No more than 78% of the sixty-one acres can be devoted to the buildings' footprints or "impervious" surfaces.

Minimum Landscaping
At least 22% of the sixty-one acres must be devoted to landscaping. Stabilized grass is considered by the contract zone to be a "pervious" surface, so it would count toward the 22% landscaping requirement.

Now, if any astute reader can define stabilized grass, I'd appreciate it.

Besides prohibiting lighting on architectural features higher than 75 feet, the lighting must be "installed so that no permanent direct lighting is emitted beyond the lot lines, except for special accent/event lighting."

Oh, and the lighting must be cutoff luminaire, which is fancy-speak for light in which "[t]he luminous intensity (in candelas) at or above an angle of 90° above nadir does not numerically exceed 2.5% of the luminous flux (in lumens) of the lamp or lamps in the luminaire, and the luminous intensity (in candelas) at or above a vertical angle of 80° above nadir does not numerically exceed 10% of the luminous flux (in lumens) of the lamp or lamps in the luminaire."

Got it? Neither did I, so I'll find out what cutoff luminaire lighting is and report back with a plainspoken explanation. In the meantime, discuss among yourselves the relative advantages and disadvantages of full cutoff luminaire, semicutoff luminaire, and just plain 'ol cutoff luminaire.

A fifty-foot buffer consisting of berms and trees must exist between the development and Stroudwater Street, and breaks in the buffer are permitted only where there's an entrance for emergency vehicles.

Traffic Impact
Access to the development will only be available from the Westbrook arterial or the connector road that runs between the arterial and the development, there will not be an access point off Stroudwater Street, and the developers are required to fund a traffic impact study.

The contract zone features an eighteen-line explanation on the parking situation in which a few guidelines are articulated. Essentially, though, it's a long-winded way of saying "We'll cross those bridges when we get to them."

Some language about energy efficiency and low environmental impact, but this clause contains no measurable targets or specific requirements.

An outdoor farmers' market and an alternative transportation depot must be constructed within two years after the first 100,000 square feet of commercial space is occupied. Moreover, a certificate of occupancy for 400,000 square feet of commercial space will not be granted until the construction of the farmers' market and tranportation center. Also, a certificate of occupancy for more than 800,000 square feet of commercial space will not be granted until an outdoor gathering place has been constructed. And a certificate of occupancy for more than 1.2 million square feet will not be granted until an indoor ice rink or similar civic center is constructed (note: this clause also gives the developers the option to simply contribute financially toward the construction of an off-site civic center or ice rink).

  • When all is said and done, the project will include retail, office space, hospitality and food, and sports and entertainment facilities. Each of these uses is numerically listed, but I am unsure of whether those numbers represent the sequence in which the uses will be developed or if they are simply arbitrary. Again, I'll get back to you.
  • High quality public spaces (no definition or examples are provided) are required for both the individual phases of the project, as well as the completed project.
  • The development will be constructed in such a way that parking will be centralized and building entrances will be located on internal streets.
  • The Master Plan will deal with such issues as alternative transportation, trails, recreation uses, and other outdoor gathering places. Also, the ice rink will set aside 2.5 hours of free time each day for Westbrook residents and youth hockey teams.
  • Dollar stores or any other sellers "distressed or salvaged merchandise and other retailers whose advertising, marketing practices or appearance, either interior or exterior, are not consistent with the kind of quality, destination-retail development described in the Vision Statement" are prohibited. Consider this the City's "No Strip Mall" insurance policy.

- John C.L. Morgan


Anonymous said...

Thanks for outlining the plan in such detail. This plan sounds better and better as we see more revealed. It will be a great day in Westbrook when construction begins on this project.

Hurdy Chadwick said...

great recap of the contract zone, and plenty of good stuff in there that was initially cause for concern. the best part: those cutoff luminaires. Indeed, anyone who's driven by the auto malls on main street near city hall will see the effects of light pollution. Evidently, cutoff luminaires concentrate the light downwards, not upwards.