RDA approves design guide

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – Downtown design standards and guidelines won approval from the Redevelopment Authority Thursday, but not without some opposition and misgivings.

After many months of work by Pfaller and Associates and the RDA’s Downtown Design Standards and Guidelines Subcommittee, the final document was presented to the RDA Thursday.

RDA member Carole O’Malley cast the only no vote on adopting the guidelines and she shared concerns she and other downtown business owners had with the document.

“I had show this to a number of downtown people and not everyone is on board. Their question is, do we have to do this,” O’Malley said of the design standards and guidelines.

She noted that many of the items in the document state that they would be required, not suggested or recommended.

“I talked to about 10 different people, they looked at all the different pages and they agreed we would not be in compliance,” with many of the items in the document, O’Malley continued.

“These are recommendations, not a code,” Mark Pfaller of Pfaller and Associates replied.

“There is never going to be a document that is going to satisfy everyone,” RDA chair Lee Gentine pointed out. “These are guidelines. It is intended to be helpful, not divisive or anything else. For people who are less experienced at renovation, these guidelines are going to be helpful. We’re going to use our common sense, but we can’t continue to go forward without documents.”

He added that it was his understanding that the standards and guidelines would apply primarily in cases where downtown property owners would be asking the RDA for facade or sign grants for projects.

Pfaller did concede that any building permit pulled for a building within the downtown district defined in the guidelines would trigger issuing the document to the person seeking the permit. They would be encouraged to follow the recommendations in the document, he added.

“We don’t want this place to look like the near north side of Milwaukee,” Pfaller said in explaining the reason for the standards and guidelines.

“There’s apparently some misunderstanding as to what guidelines are versus requirements. We’re only trying to prevent things that are totally not within what we’re trying to establish as our historic downtown district,” RDA member David Williams added.

“With the makeup of the RDA and the Plan Commission, we are going to be pro-business,” Williams assured.

“My biggest concern is does everyone have to comply,” with all of the guidelines and standards, O’Malley countered.

“This is not a static document. There are going to be changes made to it over time,” Gentine concluded.

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