This evening, I was able to meet with the developer and other interested parties. As promised (to those who have contacted me with concerns), here is an update of where things stand at present.
If you visit 155 Sheridan Street, you will notice that the property has a very steep grade. There are various ways to measure the average grade of a lot. The way it has been measured for this project (which is acceptable,by the way) is by locating the ground contact points for 8 separate corners of the building and averaging their vertical locations on the lot. This gives the lot an average grade of around 20 feet. Thus, from the lowest point (Sheridan Street), the building could rise to 65 feet (average grade of 20' + height maximum of 45') without requiring any kind of waiver, and that's where the view issue comes in.
The building, in its original design, is 6 stories tall with the top 1.5 stories breaching the plateau of the park. That last story and a half would block the westward view from the park and would sit adjacent to the park with a small setback, as the property line extends about halfway to North Street.
You can see it best on this tax map. The proposed development is on Lot 12-Q-12, and the city owned land which includes Fort Sumner Park is Lot 12-Q-15. Both are located in the bottom right corner of the red box. (Zoom in to read the small print.)
The developer, Bernie Saulnier, was receptive to people's comments and said that he would sit down with the project architect and engineer to see if they could come up with a plan that would address these concerns. They hope to be able to stick to their original timeline, which would include submitting a plan to the city in about three weeks, but they do intend to make changes to their original plan before then and present those changes at another forum.
Saulnier said that he understands working with a community is a regular part of the process and he is happy to do so. After tonight's meeting, I feel cautiously optimistic, and I look forward to seeing what Saulnier and his design team are able to come up with.
As we move forward in this process, I do hope, however, that people will resist the temptation to cast the developer in a bad light or to issue ultimatums or threats. Mr. Saulnier did not have to meet with us tonight, and his project team was not required to hold a public meeting with the MHNO board as it did a couple weeks ago. Until a plan is submitted to the city, no public engagement is required. It is the submission of a plan or an application for a permit that triggers the requirement for public meetings, and as I mentioned, no plans have been submitted to the city at this time.
This type of advance outreach is, of course, a practice we desire from developers, and good developers do tend to seek public input and engagement at the beginning of a project in order to build good will and avoid misunderstandings. Mr. Saulnier and his team are doing just that, and I am hopeful that with continued conversations, we can find a way to preserve the open air around Fort Sumner so that the view featured in the point-and-click panorama I used as my Facebook cover photo for years (below) will remain for future generations to enjoy.