Cottage Backs Off

by Nick Welsh

After an intense and double-barreled lobbying campaign led by
neighborhood activists and Cottage Hospital critics Cheri Rae and
her husband John McKinney, Cottage officials reluctantly agreed to
postpone an August 17 hearing on their plans to build 115 new homes
on the site of the former St. Francis Hospital. Cottage agreed to
the one-month delay after City Councilmembers Helene Schneider and
Das Williams — as well as Community Development Director Paul
Casey — called and asked them to do so. While Schneider and
Williams are both supportive of Cottage’s housing plans — 70
percent of the units would be price-restricted to be affordable to
Cottage workers with household incomes between $52,000 and
$120,000 — they argued people living in the affected neighborhood
should be given more time to digest the three volumes of
environmental documents on the proposed housing plan, released two
weeks ago.

Initially, Cottage officials refused to allow their critics more
time, citing the three years they’d already spent waiting to get
Planning Commission approval. Ultimately, Schneider and Williams
persuaded Cottage officials their case would be stronger if their
proposal wasn’t clouded by procedural controversy. Meanwhile,
activist Rae remained upset at the amount of effort she had to
expend just to be allowed the opportunity to give informed comment.
While voluminous, the Environmental Impact Report does not appear
fatal to Cottage’s plans; its most problematic conclusions are that
the short-term construction impacts can’t be mitigated and the
project could increase traffic congestion at several downtown
intersections in the long term. The Planning Commission is
scheduled to review the Cottage plan and its attendant
environmental documents on September 14.

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