We offer you our list of frequently asked questions along with answers that coalition members have written and had vetted. If you have additional questions, please comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Q. I’ve been told that eminent domain will be used to take businesses within the business district. Is that true?
A. No. Not true.
Q. I’ve been told that HUD money will be used to construct Section 8 apartments in the business district. Is that true?
A. No. Not true. There are no strings attached to funds for planning and no intent to build subsidized housing there.
Q. I’ve heard that if we adopt the form-based code, it will make it more difficult for developers to build. Is that true?
A. No. Not true. If the form is followed, the path to a permit will occur exponentially faster. The form would provide clarity about the community’s vision and the requirements.
Q. Can a beeper joint or dollar store open up on Harrison Avenue if we adopt form-based codes?
A. Yes, so long as it follows the form code regulations for the area. This is true with the current zoning code as well.
Q. Can we specify that no apartment buildings will be constructed in the business district? Can they be constructed now?
A. No. Apartment buildings and other multi family dwelling units are part of the walkable mixes use formula for the success of the business district. They can complement the neighborhood services and other small scale retail and office uses in the core of the business district. They can currently be constructed in the business district area under today’s zoning code.
Q. If there is no difference between the current code and form based code, why would we want to change?
A. The form code is tailored to your community and tells developers and other existing and future stakeholders what they can do with their property rather than what they can’t do. The form code creates a more predictable condition in the built environment rather than one that is strictly regulated by uses.
Q. I’ve heard that HUD money was used to fund the form-based code charrettes and that if we accept form-based codes, we have to accept HUD money as well.
A. HUD money was used to fund part of the neighborhood charrettes. Your adoption of form based code is not explicitly tied to any other HUD funding for the future. There are no HUD strings attached.
Q. Will form-based codes make it easier or harder for me to make improvements to my business?
A. Easier due to administrative approvals as long as the form code is followed.
Q. Can form-based codes keep beeper shops and other undesirable stores out of our business district?
A. No. It can only regulate what their building, signage, and lighting looks like for the shop. That means the code would stipulate components that are too restrictive or costly for the type of store you are referring to.
Q. If we adopt form based codes, will construction on the Westwood square occur within the next year or two?
A. No. The “square” is only one concept that came out of the neighborhood charrette. It has not been fully vetted by the city for its feasibility and it will require a significant level of review before moving forward.
Q. If we improve the business district, will my property taxes go up?
A. We don’t know at this point. It is reasonable to speculate that significant economic success in the area would lead to increased property value, but there are a number of factors that influence tax rates.
Q. Are there any examples of successful form-based code initiatives like the one proposed for Harrison Ave?
A. Columbia Pike in Arlington, Virginia is one. See http://www.columbiapikeva.us/revitalization-story/columbia-pike-initiative/columbia-pike-form-based-code/
Q. Will single family homes be torn down?
A. No and they will not be taken by eminent domain.
Q. Will businesses be taken by eminent domain?
A. Definitely not, business owners will not lose their business to eminent domain or by any other means. No one will be forced to sell their business. We are hopeful that the opposite will happen and the value of their property will increase as developers begin to take notice the new Harrison Avenue business corridor. Can we stipulate the types of businesses that can be started in the business district? No, building owners are free to rent or lease their spaces as they see fit. We can create a set of recommendations for what we would like to see in our business district. The revitalization of the business district will be a cooperative effort between the City Planning department, Economic Development Department, the Westwood coalition, current business owners and building owners. Our hope is that with the help of the City we can attract developers that will be forward thinking and favorable to our wishes for a new Harrison Ave Business corridor.
Q. Is that town square definitely being built?
A. No. First, a formal request has to be made of the City Administration for a feasibility study of the Square. There may be things that will prevent the Square from being constructed at that location. The feasibility study will tell us what is possible with Town Square. If it is the will of the community and the business owners most affected to build the Square, then a business transaction will occur. If the interested parties decide not to proceed at this time, then the idea of a Westwood Community Square will have to wait until the climate is right for that change.
Q. How can revitalization help with crime deterrence and safety?
A. Deterring crime isn’t simply a matter of increased police presence within the business district. Increased foot traffic within the business district will deter crime. People using a designated space for a legitimate activity (i.e.: pedestrians in a neighborhood, people in a park, etc.) These people offer natural surveillance, which increases the likelihood that criminal activity will be observed. Criminals are more likely to commit their crimes in an environment where they can get away with it unobserved.
Q. Is there enough parking to encourage visitors from other areas?
A. Parking is an issue and will need to addressed. Other communities have been slowly addressing this issue by buying vacant property near or within their business district to increase their parking needs.
Q. Isn’t the area walkable now? I walk my dogs in this area every day.
A. There’s walkable and then there’s walkable. The area is walkable, but in the current configuration it is not conducive to pedestrian friendly shopping. While it’s true that we have very few retail shops along this stretch of Harrison Ave, it is also true that traffic along Harrison Avenue is an impediment to our future growth. Traffic on Harrison Ave is too fast and needs to be calmed. The Square would help to promote slower speeds along that business corridor. Drivers and pedestrians will both have to slow down to navigate the square. Calming traffic is step one in helping to set the table for future development of the business district.
Q. Is the city requiring this and calling all the shots?
A. No, the city is not requiring that we revitalize the business district, but they have made money available to the community through the Focus 52 program.