A divided zoning board voted 3-2 to approve the redevelopment of the Robin Rug factory into 127 residential units.
After months and months of public debate, letters, and testimony by experts and abutters, on Thursday, May 12 a divided zoning board voted 3-2 to approve the redevelopment of the Robin Rug factory into 127 residential units.
It has been a complex process for a complex plan, and developers are far from breaking ground, though they have surmounted the first hurdle.
The hour-long meeting was mostly consumed by discussion of a last-minute amendment to the draft decision by Solicitor Andy Teitz that will pass the density issue to the Town Council. Board member Brian Clark suggested that the amendment was effectively “spot zoning” — something Teitz disagreed with, given that the Yarn Mill is substantially different from the other buildings in the area.
“It’s very much distinguishable from the other buildings,” said Teitz. "Spot zoning is not illegal; it’s illegal when it does not comply with the comprehensive plan."
“I didn’t say that it was illegal,” said Clark. “I said it was frowned upon."
“You’ve had expert testimony and it’s up to you to decide,” said Teitz. "Comprehensive plans are big broad documents and sometimes there are big broad statements that are contradictory. The Bristol comprehensive plan specifically calls out this plot by name, so I leave it to you to interpret that.”
The discussion also veered into he recently-uncovered discrepancy of the square footage of the complex that was used to determine the allowable number of units. When Clark asked what square footage appeared on the original application, Diane Williamson, Director of Community Development, did not have the original application on hand so could not answer. Clark questioned if the BOMA (The Building Owners and Managers Association) Standard of Floor Measurement, the industry standard that has been used for over 100 years, was used; Williamson did not know. Clark suggested the "PFA" standard — “plucked from air” — had been used in its place.
Williamson replied that is why she liked to go by the tax assessors data. “It clarifies going forward that this density is going to be set by the Town Council.”
“We should base it on something that’s industry standard,” said Clark.
"I would venture to say the architect based his number on livable space, which is how they would have come up with unit numbers,” said Stephen Katz. “I would argue that given this is the first time we’ve seen this [larger] number mentioned, we should mention that. If we’re going to do this, let’s give the council all the facts. Let’s not hide things.”
“In the end, it really doesn’t make a difference, the Council will decide,” said Armand Bilotti.
The Planning Board worked through a handful of additional proposed amendments that attempted to clarify the result of the vote for the record; some of which were added to the final draft which, which at this time is still being completed.
The final vote mirrored the one taken in the late April decision to draft an approval, with Clark and Katz voting nay, and Murgo, Squatrito, and Bilotti voting to approve the development and forward the matter to the Town Council.
This story will be updated.