At the end a five-hour meeting Aug. 26, Littleton’s planning board voted 6-1 to urge rejection of the controversial Broadstone apartment project.
“Last time, I think you were on the 60-yard line. This time, I think you’re up to the 80-yard line,” said board member Andrew Graham. “It just wasn’t enough to push it over for me.”
The board sent a unanimous unfavorable recommendation to Littleton City Council in June. The developer made some last-minute changes before what was to be the final public hearing on July 30, prompting council to send it back to planning.
Lots of citizens are still not happy with the project proposed for the old sheriff’s building site, despite increased setbacks, decreased height, lowered density and promised traffic improvements.
“You can take a 150-pound dog and shave it, and it’s still a 150-pound dog,” said Brenda O’Connell, one of about 45 people who were there in opposition.
Tom O’Brien, one of a handful of supporters, called the proceedings a “token meeting” and questioned the board member’s motives.
“To me, this feels like a mob mentality,” he said. “I guess you guys just go along with the mob.”
Stew Meagher, a former planning-board member, said the endless drilling down into the details of the various and sometimes contradictory planning documents governing the site prompted him to get off his couch and show up in person to comment.
“Something is going to happen to that site, and this might be the best we ever get,” he said.
The developer has changed some minds since the last go-round. This time, chair Randy Duzan supported the project, saying it’s rough around the edges but would support synergy and vibrancy in the downtown area.
“It would help it to be a place where people want to be,” he said.
Fran Pierson lives just east of the site in Littleton Station condos and has been working against the project with the grassroots Citizens for Rational Development since the beginning. He now supports the project.
“This was a difficult decision for me, because I had really been working with the neighbors against this for a very long time,” he said, adding that his philosophy is to always seek compromise. “We were so close, it wasn’t worth quibbling about.”
Board member Karina Elrod made a last-ditch effort to approve the plan on the condition the developer lower the density. Originally 325 units, the latest plan is for 225, about 50 units per acre. Elrod thought 196 would more closely adhere to a design plan for the site. The Littleton Boulevard Corridor study, ratified by council, says 40 units per acre could prove economically viable, but there’s some ambiguity about whether that’s a minimum or a maximum or somewhere in between.
Duzan tried to table the matter to give the developer more time to comply with such a condition, but developer Andy Clay of Alliance Residential said he’s under contractual obligation to his investor and the property owner to get this wrapped up.
“Frankly, we’re out of time to make changes that would end up remanding it back to the planning board,” he said.