Failure to use due diligence, failure to follow state law cited…tumbles “blight” ordinance…
Coalition group to meet 6 p.m. today in APSU’s Clement Auditorium, in lieu of the previously planned city meeting…City Council members invited to attend…
Clarksville Mayor Johnny Piper, has taken a bold step and reversed direction on the “blight” ordinance. He has decided to cancel a community meeting that was scheduled for Thursday evening at Austin Peay State University, where members of the Downtown District Partnership were to review the Clarksville Center Redevelopment Plan. The meeting was planned to allow the DDP the opportunity to inform property owners in the redevelopment area about the plan that they developed and recommended to the City Council.
“I have great concerns about how this was handled and presented to the City Council by the DDP,” Mayor Piper
The Mayor’s office has received many phone calls and comments from concerned residents over the past few weeks on this issue. In addition, the formation of the Clarksville Property Rights Coalition (CPRC), fueled by angry residents of the downtown area, and two standing room-only grassroots public meetings, provided a highly visible evidence of public discontent with the ordinance and the way it was developed and presented.
Piper had been asked to allow a statement of concerns from affected property owners to be read at that hearing but denied that request. Tonight he announced the cancellation of the meeting and suggested errors in the planning and the passage of this ordinance:
“I began studying this issue when the concerns from the property owners were first raised. I looked at other redevelopment districts across the state and today I visited with government leaders in Knoxville, where over 20 redevelopment plans have been created and adopted, to discuss how theirs were created.” — Mayor Piper
The Mayor’s research shows that the previous leadership of the DDP and other participants did not follow due diligence in the way they prepared and presented the Clarksville Center Redevelopment Plan. In addition, there may be some instances where they did not follow state law. Tennessee state law requires that a public hearing be held on all redevelopment districts and that property owners be notified in advance and in writing.
Speaking on behalf of the Clarksville Property Rights Coalition, Atty. John Summers (seen below right speaking with residents at the 12.17.07 CPRC meeting) said:
“The members of the Steering Committee of the Clarksville Property Rights Coalition feel somewhat vindicated by the Mayor’s admission that the Clarksville Center Redevelopment Plan as adopted is legally flawed, something they have been stating for weeks.”
Summers said “the claims by the Downtown District Partnership that the information put forth by the CPRC was “blatantly false and misleading” have been proven to be inaccurate” and the CPRC was justified in its concerns.
“But the responsibility for enacting the Redevelopment Plan falls squarely on this Mayor and this Council, because they were the ones that enacted the ordinance. It is their responsibility to enact ordinances that comply with state law and protects the rights of citizens and they did neither in this case.”
“Once enacted it became the city’s plan and their plan. They have a duty to ensure that the plan meets the requirements from the state and protects the citizens of the city. We strongly urge the council to repeal this plan, as soon as possible, in it’s entirety. There is no justification for leaving it on the books as it is null and void. What needs to occur before any other redevelopment plan is considered is to have a full and open and thorough discussion of all of its aspects.” — John Summers
Mayor Piper said he will make a recommendation to the City Council to amend the ordinance and to also hold a public hearing so that those affected can voice their opinions and concerns.
Summers, stating that the “only fair way to solve this divisive issue is to repeal the current Plan in its entirety,” rebutted the idea of amending the plan. He said:
“Consideration of any new redevelopment proposal should only occur after there has been open and extensive community meetings where the impact, boundaries, and other issues are relating to the Plan have been fully presented and some consensus has been reached in support of it by those directly impacted by the Plan. To try to simply patch up the current Plan ordinance in a effort to correct its legal flaws will only increase the distrust and anger in the community and will result in costly litigation. “
NAACP President and civil rights advocate Jimmie Garland, a panelist at the first grassroots meeting [HOPE Center] organized around this issue, said he was pleasantly surprised to hear that Mayor Piper had canceled the meeting and said “there should not have been a need to meet in the first place. Ever since I became aware of this issue I have sensed the flaws associated with both the authoring and implementation of the PLAN.” He also made clear that the Clarksville NAACP had their own issues with the plan as codified:
“…felt the plan would be devastating to the minority population of Ward 6. Why? Because the PLAN, as written and approved, would have ultimately rendered the downtown void of a large percentage of its current minority population. Especially since it is the only super minority majority Ward within the city of Clarksville. That being so, it would be unethical for our city leaders to allow personal greed to pre-empt their responsibility to protect the voting rights citizens of Lincoln Homes, Red River District and select portions of Dog Hill communities.
Garland (at left) expressed relief that the process is being placed in a position of reconsideration and voiced hope that the City Council will rescind the biased ordinance and focus on other areas within the city that truly needs their attention. He cited crime, homelessness, and bringing more diversity into city government.
“If Clarksville intends to measure up to our slogan, “The Gateway to the New South”, she needs to start by becoming inclusive,” Garland concluded.
Terry McMoore (right), Director of the Urban Resource Center and sponsor of the Dec. 14 HOPE Center meeting, said “the community response has been very strong and I am sure that the high percentage of bloggers on various media outlets local and statewide sent a message to City Hall that the people won’t be intimidated into turning over their property rights.”
McMoore urged caution, though:
“…let’s not start the celebration too soon. Let’s not forget that this is the same administration that accused the people of putting out misleading information and that they, the City, were abiding by all state laws when they voted for this ordinance.
“Are they, the city, willing to take this small defeat in hopes that we, the people, will put down our guards, stop fighting, go home and sit in front of the TV eating ice cream while they come around the corner on us with a new plan that still takes our property rights away. The battle is still on people, so we don’t have time to sleep.”
The issue of redevelopment is not over, CPRC spokesman John Summers cautioned. The Coalition (CPRC) will conduct their own informational and organizational meeting in place of the DDP meeting and urges all residents to attend and become better informed about the issue, its potential impact, and what may transpire as the ordinance is reviewed, amended or rescinded. (at left, photo of Train Station hearing, 12.17.07)
The CPRC meeting will be held 6 p.m. today in APSU’s Clement Auditorium