Blatantly disregarding public input and dissent, the City Council voted to approve the controversial Downtown Redevelopment and Urban Renewal ordinance, nicknamed the “blight bill,” even as disgruntled homeowners and small business owners, all members of the Clarksville Property Rights Coalition, dressed in the blood-red color of protest, looked on.
In a May 8 letter written on behalf of the CPRC, Becky McMahan first thanked “those members of the City Council who have given us the courtesy of meeting with us to discuss the Redevelopment Plan,” then presented a number of points for the council to consider the all but pre-ordained vote.
McMahan’s points were and continue to be the following:
- There is wide-spread opposition to this Plan throughout the greater Clarksville/Montgomery County community. The CPRC has collected signatures from over 350 property owners representing over 400 parcels in the Plan area in opposition to enactment of the Plan. There is little support for the Plan outside of the development community, who hope to financially benefit from enactment of the Plan.
- No other redevelopment plan in the country includes the entire central business district of a city. The Clarksville Plan does. And most cities do not include residential neighborhoods in their redevelopment plans. For example, in Nashville only one redevelopment plan includes any residentially zoned properties and the plan’s provisions specifically do not apply to those residential properties.
- This Plan authorizes $41.5 million in tax increment financing, or tax breaks for developers.This significant point has not been openly discussed by this Council or presented clearly to the community. With the city facing a tight budget this year, the long-term impact of these tax breaks need to be discussed more thoroughly with the community for an understanding of their full impact.
- Because the City of Clarksville’s current historic zoning ordinance is ineffective containing little, if any, protections for our historic properties and neighborhoods, this Redevelopment Plan places historic properties in the Plan area at greater risk. Clarksville’s has lost so much of its historical fabric as a result of the 1999 tornado, preservation efforts should be strengthened, not weakened.
- This Plan is subject to legal challenge on a number of points and in all likelihood will ultimately involve the City in expensive litigation. The process by which this Plan has been approved has serious due process flaws. A public hearing where the public is not allowed to speak does not meet the legal requirements of a public hearing.
- This Plan potentially violates the Voters Rights Act and the civil rights of the minority residents of Clarksville. The Plan boundaries encompass the only majority minority Council district. The Plan puts the integrity of this district at risk. This is another point of possible litigation for the City of Clarksville.
- This issue has long-term political consequences for the City of Clarksville. Despite what some may hope, this issue is not going to quietly fade away. The majority of the public does not believe that government should have the power to condemn private property and then sell that property to another party for private development.
“This issue will be played out in the city elections this November and in 2010. The public is well aware of how the residents and the property owners in the Plan area have been treated by this Administration. The CPRC is not opposed to development. We believe there are areas of Clarksville where a redevelopment plan would be appropriate. But we do not believe the current Plan before you is appropriate.
“The rights and concerns of the affected residents and property owners are being ignored. This Administration has treated the individuals who have raised concerns and objections to this Plan with disdain and contempt. The disrespect shown to these citizens and taxpayers is inexcusable conduct for an elected official.
“This issue is still too divisive for our community. More time, more effort needs to be invested to find greater consensus before a Plan of this impact and consequence for so many residents and property owners is approved.
“I urge you to put the interests of the citizens of our community ahead of those few who are promoting this Plan. This ordinance is flawed. It is not the tool needed to improve our community. We can develop a better alternative, if the community is allowed to participate in a meaningful manner.
McMahan concluded by urging councilors to not support the ordinance in its final reading.