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“Blight” bill up for 2nd reading & vote; City Council sets Executive & Special Sessions

 

UPDATE: Upon receipt of a Special Called Session agenda at 12:30 p.m. today, the vote in question on the adoption of ordinance 96-2007-08 is NOT on the agenda; it was listed as part of the special session agenda previously received by Clarksville Online and discussed on 4/23/08, the agenda upon which this story is based. The ordinance will have its second reading as scheduled.

Ordinance 96-2007-08, a.k.a. “the blight bill,” is coming before the City Council in back-to-back meetings for a second reading AND a vote to adopt the controversial ordinance tonight starting at 4:30 p.m. in the City Hall Conference Room at 1 Public Square in downtown Clarksville. At a recent meeting on this issue on the APSU campus, Mayor Johnny Piper assured concerned residents affected by this ordinance, titled Clarksville Center Redevelopment and Urban Renewal Plan, that it would NOT come up before the Council “until May.” Today is April 24.

The first item under new business for the special session reads as follows:

1. ORDINANCE 96-2007-08 (Second Reading) Adopting the Clarksville Center Redevelopment and Urban Renewal Plan

The ordinance in its original form deemed approximately two square miles of downtown Clarksville as blighted, subject to eminent domain, under a Clarksville Redevelopment Plan. That plan was flawed in content and the process used to present it to the affected residents and business owners. A re-worked version which has some improvements, added the words “urban renewal” to “redevelopment” but still carried many of the same problems including eminent domain and an assemblage clause that Clarksville Property Rights Coalition (CPRC) attorney Attorney John Summers called “audacious.”

Here’s the game plan: The City Council will meet in a non-voting Executive Session first, at 4:30 p.m., in the conference room, with an extensive agenda that includes a second reading of the ordinance as the first item under new business, a move which caught members of the coalition members off-guard, but not for long. That Executive Session agenda lists time for “Public Comment” at the END of each meeting. The Executive Session will be immediately followed by a “Special Called Voting Session” at which a full agenda of items including the Redevelopment Plan will be presented. (See complete Special Session and Executive Session agendas at the end of this article). The Special Called Meeting will also only accept public comment only AFTER the meeting.

In anticipation of the May vote on this issue, the Coalition had been planning to run an ad opposing the ordinance in the Leaf Chronicle. That plan is on hold as they re-organize in light of the upcoming voting session, and they are questioning the legality and timing of the voting session, which contains a number of the same issues that torpedoed the original ordinance. With barely a day’s notice, and the late “suppertime” and “rush hour” timing of the meeting, interested parties are scrambling to arrange to attend what they see as a vital meeting.

At all prior hearings, an overwhelming majority of public comments were strongly opposed to this ordinance in both its first and second incarnations. Given the numbers of concerned citizens who have turned out for prior meetings, which necessitated special planning but often still attracted overflow crowds, it will be interesting to see how many of that voter/taxpayer/property owner constituency can be accommodated for today’s meeting.

Clarksville NAACP President Jimmie Garland (at left) said the plan is about to “destroy the only minority ward in the city” and was appalled at the cavalier attitude exhibited by elected city officials on this issue. Noting that in the very public forum at APSU the mayor assured the public of a different timetable on this vote, Garland said simply, “He [Piper] lied.”

“Where is the redevelopment plan,” Garland asked, citing the specific construction strategies and plans for redevelopment districts.”We have no plan.” Garland joined Coalition members in asking how a city can adopt such an ordinance without a defined and specific plan to put before the people.

What is the reason for this madness, asked Turner McCullough, a former City Council candidate, who also said it was his understanding that special called sessions required lengthier notification times and were limited to a single vote on a specific issue, not an entire agenda. “I think they will be in trouble with the law on this.”

If the City Council acts to pass this plan, they will do so against public opinion and against the wishes of a large contingent of voters who reside in the targeted area.

Concerned residents attend a Council meeting on the redevelopment plan

Here is a bit of background on the APSU and other meetings, along with a lengthy list of verbatim public comments drawn from the 60 printed comments assembled by the Mayor’s office (and which were to be published here prior to the assured Council vote in May):

City residents may not always have a chance to speak to the City Council, the Mayor, and others involved in the controversial Downtown Revitalization Plan, but many of them took the time to express their views on “Public Comment” cards made available at recent hearings. The redevelopment plan as initially passed in November designed two square miles of downtown Clarksville — with the exception of Austin Peay State University — as ‘blighted.”

Numerous public hearings and public information meeting have been held, with and without public comment allowed. While the city has made some laudable adjustments to their plan and held a hearing last week to review the proposed amendments to the plan, there are still numerous questions to answer, and not all residents — apart from not being afforded a chance to speak and question the presenters — have not had their concerns addressed. Those concerns involved eminent domain and the “assemblage” issue, a means of bundling together properties that may or may not be blighted in order to meet the needs of developers.

The public hearing designed to mitigate concerns and introduce revisions was held at Burt School on Eighth Street in an auditorium that had been certified for 220 people but within a day of the hearing was re-certified by the Fire Marshall to accommodate 180, leaving an overflow crowd of nearly 100 people standing outside. City officials held the next hearing in “larger” space at the Customs House Museum, which accommodated 190 people.

At the APSU meeting, Clarksville Online obtained a photocopied collection assembled by the city of public comments on this plan. We now offer our readers a broad look at the some of the comments on the ordinance received by city officials in writing. A photocopied packet of those responses was made available to Clarksville Online by the city, and we present them here as public information:

I made a request to the Mayor and the City Council at the 3/20/08 public hearing regarding the redevelopment and urban renewal plan but I was denied the opportunity to speak. I am opposed to my property being included the plan boundary which makes it subject to condemnation for public development. I have spent lots of money to to preserve my home, to improve it. I hereby request that the plan be repealed or that my property be removed from the plan area. — Annette Simon

“I requested to speak at the Public Hearing but was denied the opportunity to speak at the public hearing. I am the attorney representing the Clarksville Property Rights Coalition, a group of residents and property owners opposed to the redevelopment plan.” — John Summers

“If this “redevelopment plan” is not designed purposely to aid developers, why is the word “assemblage” mentioned eight times in the plan? The ability to put together packages of land seems to me to be solely for developers to create large amounts of land for the purposes of putting up developments.” — Lucinda Marczak

Eyeing a copy of the original ordinance at the SRO L&M Train Station meeting in Deccember, 2007.

“Eminent domain for private development must be specifically prohibited, as the current administration and council cannot possibly make promises for future administrations and councils. This is by far the single most important issue of this ordinance. Also, the designation of “blight” is offensive to residents and homeowners. Finally, the concept of a public hearing where the public is not heard is contrary to basic American and Constitutional principles. Is Clarksville no longer a democracy? Holding public “hearings” after the fact instead of declaring the ordinance invalidated due to illegal procedure is still not correcting the problem at hand. Obviously the DDP [Ed: Downtown District Partnership] has dealt in “misinformation from the very beginning of this ordinance as they “assured” the Mayor and the City Council the affected residents had been properly notified and placated. This is and was a blatant lie, as the first time I heard of this ordinance was late November of 2007, two months after the ordinance was passed.” — Katrina Gunn

“Unfair to the people who have been unable to actually hear what was said in this meeting. I was left outside and in the dark again about what was really going on. The untruth of this plan continues and we as a community are uninformed, unheard, and disgusted by the way we are being treated.” — Carmen Cross

L&M Train Station attendees (12/07) apparently can’t believe what they are hearing…

“Need to tell the truth about what the City of Clarksville is really doing about the redevelopment plan and Urban Renewal Plan. I speak for almost everyone…let us know and stop telling everyone lies. We will not let them take our houses and and business for nothing; we understand about growing Clarkville but just to take and sneak around…don’t tell anyone for over a year about what you are doing…” — Nettie Johnson

“I am opposed to anything I don’t have a say in. You cannot take my property from me without my say so.” — Rosemary Black

“Piper is crooked. He stands to get money like the rest on this plan. My home was bought thru slaves who worked for the community and bought their land for their children … will have a place to home. The whole community knows they are all wrong for putting families out of their property, push them off, so they can build what they want to. Go. Be gone. Leave ours alone.” — Nanette Michelle Atkins

“Our rental property at 330 Main Street is a very special property to us. As an income-producing parcel, it is a concern to us that “urban renewal” would be allowed to take this from us, or raise our property taxes.” — Stanley and Sherry Bumpus

“This meeting was a joke. It does not resemble anything democratic. I requested the right to speak and was denied the opportunity.” — Dorman Vaughn

District 8 is asking that we change our own representation. We don’t live in Knoxville. Our problem can’t be address by Knoxville Redevelopment Plans. We do not know their population. How many black people live in those projects?” — Virginia Hatcher

“I am opposed to my property being included in the plan boundary. I am widowed and this is my only means of income and also my sons. we have owned three properties there since the late 1960s. I feel it is very unfair and more like an act of communism. I hereby request that the plan be replaced or (or that I) be removed from the plan area.” — Maxine Smith

I made a request to speak to the Mayor and City Council at the Public Hearing on march 20 [2008] about the Clarksville Center redevelopment and Urban Renewal Plan but was denied the opportunity to speak. I am owner and operator of Kraft Street Muffler and Brakes, a family owned business since 1988. We lease our building and plan on being there 20 more years. Who will pay for our loss of income?” — Terry D. Snuggs

The city needs this plan! the sooner the better!” — Charlsie Lankford, DDP Chairwoman

“I was denied access to this public meeting by the police until it was over. This is not right.” — James Taylor

“I was denied a chance to speak at the so-called Public Meeting on March 20. So let me say: I am opposed to my property being included in the planned boundary, which means my property is subject to condemnation for private development. I would like to see the plan repealed. — Lynne Gavito

“I think this city needs this plan in a hurry.” — Kenneth Keesee

“Aren’t both sides of a story supposed to be heard at a public hearing? Only one voice is being heard. When does the public get to ask questions? I love Clarksville, but I am very disgusted by this ‘presentation.’ ” — Andrea Keen

“Knoxville [Ed.: Clarksville officials went to Knoxville to explore that city's approach to redevelopment] is not our city or our government reps.” — Arthur Carter

“I made a request to speak to the mayor and City Council at the Public Hearing Ed: Burt School hearing 3.20.08]…but was denied the opportunity to speak. What about the business owners (me and my husband have been working on Kraft Street for 20 years)! What do we do for a living?” — Laurie A. Buggs 158 Kraft St

1. If a resident cannot afford to make changes to their property due to lack of funds, does it mean their property will be acquired through legal means? 2. Will the contractor be responsible for getting their loans or will they be financed by city/county government? 3. How do you plant to implement the “assemblage of properties?” 4. We could have had this briefing via phone!!!”– Jimmie M. Garland

The public affected should be made aware of all the issues and have a right to vote on its acceptance. The presentation did not [ ]which individual property owners would be cheated.” — Steve Batie Rockwoods HWY

Do not take my home. I am opposed to my property being included in this plan. I want my property to be removed from this plan area. APSU property is not in this plan. Why is mine? Repeal the ordinance — not amend it.” — Alfred Rogers

“If eminent domain is not going to be used, as several councilmen, Joe Pitts and others say, why can’t it be taken out? Eminent domain for public use is understood, the redevelopment plan is audacious. The plan has not been fixed. Our property rights are non-existent under this plan. The RBD needs to have at least half residents to insure a fair balance.” — Patsy Sharpe

Agenda for the 4:30 p.m. non-voting Executive Session:

1) PLANNING COMMISSION

ZONING: PUBLIC HEARING AND FIRST READING

1. ORDINANCE 93-2007-08 Amending the Zoning Ordinance and City Code relative to residential cluster option

2. ORDINANCE __-2007-08 Amending the Zoning Ordinance and Map of the City of Clarksville, application of Jimmy Randolph for zone change on property at Evans Road & Purple Heart Parkway from RM-1 Single Family Mobile Home District to C-5 Highway & Arterial Commercial District

3. ORDINANCE __-2007-08 Amending the Zoning Ordinance and Map of the City of Clarksville, application of Clear Sky c/o Mark Young for zone change on property at Stokes Road & Warfield Boulevard from R-1 Single Family Residential District to O-1 Office-Medical-Institutional-Civic District

4. ORDINANCE __-2007-08 Amending the Zoning Ordinance and Map of the City of Clarksville, application of Edward C. Burchett for zone change on property at Wilma Rudolph Boulevard & Union Hall Road from C-5 Highway & Arterial Commercial District to C-2 General Commercial District

5. ORDINANCE __-2007-08 Amending the Zoning Ordinance and Map of the City of Clarksville, application of Jay and Wendy Rutherford for zone change on property at Killebrew Road & Rossview Road from AG Agricultural District to C-2 General Commercial District

2) BUILDING & CODES COMMITTEE
Wayne Harrison, Chair

3) FINANCE & ADMINISTRATION COMMITTEE
Wallace Redd, Chair

1. ORDINANCE 94-2007-08 (Second Reading) Amending the Official Code relative to Longevity Lump Sum Payments

2. ORDINANCE 98-2007-08 (Second Reading) Authorizing purchase of property and authorizing exercise of right of eminent domain for the Spring Creek Lift Station

3. ORDINANCE 100-2007-08 (Second Reading) Establishing a limited separation incentive for eligible employees

4. ORDINANCE 101-2007-08 (Second Reading) Amending the 2008 Capital Projects Budget for exterior repairs to Public Square buildings

5. ORDINANCE 102-2007-08 (Second Reading) Amending the Official Code relative to establishment of a Special Events Fund

4) GAS & WATER COMMITTEE
Richard Swift, Chair

5) GENERAL SERVICES COMMITTEE
Diana Ward, Chair

6) PARKS & RECREATION COMMITTEE
Marc Harris, Chair

7) PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE
Diana Ward, Chair

1. ORDINANCE 81-2007-08 (First Reading; Postponed April 3rd) Establishing a distance rule for sale of intoxicating liquor (Proposed New Language)

2. ORDINANCE 82-2007-08 (First Reading; Postponed April 3rd) Establishing a distance rule for sale of beer (Proposed New Language)

3. RESOLUTION 55-2007-08 (Postponed April 3rd) Authorizing a contract with the Clarksville Housing Authority for supplemental police services (Proposed New Language)

8) STREET COMMITTEE
Wayne Harrison, Chair

9) TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE
Barbara Johnson, Chair

10) NEW BUSINESS

1. ORDINANCE 96-2007-08 (Second Reading) Adopting the Clarksville Center Redevelopment and Urban Renewal Plan

2. ORDINANCE __-2007-08 (First Reading) Amending the Official Code relative to building, park, and facility designations (Councilwoman McLaughlin)

3. ORDINANCE __-2007-08 (First Reading) Amending the Official Code relative to street designations (Councilwoman McLaughlin)

4. Approval of Board Appointments:

Parking Authority: James Lewis – January 2008 through December 2008; Jeff Robinson (replace David Baggett-term expired) – May 2008 through December 2011; Scott Giles (fill unexpired term of Evans Peay-resigned) – May 2008 through December 2009

Senior Citizens Board: John Edmondson (reappointment) – May 2008 through April 2010

5. Approval of Minutes: Regular Session April 3rd, Special Session April 7th, April 21st

11) MAYOR AND STAFF REPORTS

12) ADJOURNMENT

13) PUBLIC COMMENTS

UPDATED [4/24/08] Agenda for the subsequent “Special Session”:

The agenda for the voting session is as follows:

1) CALL TO ORDER

2) PRAYER AND PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

3) ATTENDANCE REGISTRATION

4) SPECIAL SESSION AGENDA:

1. ORDINANCE 21-2007-08 (Second Reading; Proposed New Language) Adopting Senate Bill No. 2 of the 105th Tennessee General Assembly as enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, providing for the uniform administration of the Property Tax Freeze Act (Finance Committee: Approval)

2. ORDINANCE 94-2007-08 (First Reading) Amending the Official Code relative to Longevity Lump Sum Payments (Finance Committee: Approval)

3. ORDINANCE 97-2007-08 (Second Reading) Amending the 2008 Capital Projects Budget for Legion Street Improvements ($225,000)

4. ORDINANCE 98-2007-08 (First Reading) Authorizing purchase of property and authorizing exercise of right of eminent domain for the Spring Creek Lift Station

5. ORDINANCE 100-2007-08 (First Reading) Establishing a limited separation incentive for eligible employees (Finance Committee: Approval)

6. ORDINANCE 101-2007-08 (First Reading) Amending the 2008 Capital Projects Budget for unanticipated maintenance items for Public Square buildings

7. ORDINANCE 102-2007-08 (First Reading) Establishing a Special Events Fund

8. RESOLUTION 74-2007-08 Amending Personnel Procedure 91-2 relative to New Employee Hiring and Orientation (Finance Committee: Approval)

9. RESOLUTION 75-2007-08 Adopting Personnel Policy 08-01 relative to bereavement leave (Finance Committee: Approval)

10. RESOLUTION 76-2007-08 Adopting the 2009 Action Plan of the 2005-2010 Consolidated Plan and authorizing request for CDBG and HOME funds (Finance Committee: Approval)

5) ADJOURNMENT


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