Some of us in the CFP took a stroll down to the courthouse this evening to see our government in action. Of particular interest this night was the request for rezoning by the entity known as Daisy Lane, LLC, otherwise known as The McCartin Companies.
This was the group's second bite at the apple (a correspondent points out it's the third bite)
, and after much negotiation with the city plan staff, a proposal to rezone (actually for approval of a planned unit development district) came before the New Albany Plan Commission.
Residents of the area of impact, roughly the square mile surrounding the intersection of Daisy Lane (East-West) and Green Valley Road (North-South), turned out in force to express their objection to creeping commercial development in that corridor.
The property owner, the prospective developer's representatives, and an interested potential buyer of condominium offices there spoke convincingly about the project's benefits. Their case, seemingly backed by the city staff, was that preserving the residential nature of the area was a lost cause because of previous allowances made to root out residences and replace them with commercial uses.
The family practicioner interested in purchasing several units of the development spoke of his own practice's need to be "near the hospital" and "near other doctors" because his patients expected it. Having grown up miles from the nearest hospital, I couldn't immediately see the logic in that argument, especially considering that space much nearer to the hospital is available now.
All in all, it was a compelling night of civic activism. The Plan Commission issued a negative recommendation. Now, the New Albany City Council becomes the battleground, presumably at February's first meeting.
The vote was 6-2, with one abstention (and two vacancies). Six votes is the required number to approve or disapprove such diversions from the city's comprehensive plan and zoning regime.
Chas Hunter (who carefully explained his reasoning) and Don Gibbons (who elected not to explain) voted against the negative recommendation. Observers could not be sure this was a vote for
the proposal, or simply a preference that the commission make no recommendation.
Commission President Robert Norwood, Vice President Jason Emly and members Dick Bliss, Steven LaDuke, Thomas Wolf, and John Gonder expressed the will of the commission, recommending that the city council reject the request.
One interesting sidelight: Commission member and city council member Beverly Crump recused herself from considering the matter, actually leaving the room during deliberations. One recalls the contretemps that erupted when the "no-bull" Mrs. Crump asked of Mr. McCartin at the last council meeting: "I want to know. Did you say you could do anything you wanted and the City of New Albany couldn't stop you?"
Preceded by a highly personal rebuke of Mrs. Crump, Mr. McCartin launched into a rambling 17-minute dissertation on all the good he had done for the city, how the city's zoning rules were the craziest he had seen anywhere in the U.S. (no mention of Brazil), and how the sewage backup that ran his Lauren's Crossing tenants away was "not his fault." And that was about an entirely unrelated zoning request.
It seemed petty and pretty bad form to attack the council while asking them to waive their rules and rush through an "emergency" rezoning, but maybe it was more calculated than even we imagined. Could "The Gary" have anticipated tonight's session and knowing that Mrs. Crump is, if anything, an honorable woman, she would feel compelled to recuse herself? After all, dozens saw Mr. McCartin challenge her integrity. Although I have not spoken to Mrs. Crump (and I was tardy to the meeting tonight), I can only assume that Mrs. Crump would say after McCartin's attack on her, at least some people might assume she had a bias.
That makes it pretty remarkable, then, that the commission could still put together six votes to recommend disapproval.
The result was notable, and for the record, I'm certain I would have voted to maintain the residential nature of the parcel. But the public comment portions were revelatory for this novice to Plan Commission meetings.
With little of the irrelevancy and petulance often exhibited at City Council meetings, the residents of the affected area gave poignant testimony to their beliefs. And, it seems most, if not all, were resigned to seeing their cause get crushed under the inexorable assault of commercial development.
Kudos to Mrs. Kunzman for her advocacy for revitalizing downtown; to feisty and devoted Erin Schroeder, who demonstrated some of the skills inculcated by the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., from which Erin earned the group's highest honor; and to Dana Fendley, who once again took up the cause of her constituents and dispassionately reminded the commission of its A-number-one consideration (our correspondent says that, actually, the Plan Commission may not consider)
- the actual need for the rezoning. (But the hearing included much discussion by the public about whether there was a need. That's a pretty fine point, but a good one to remember)
And to all the rest of you, some of whom left the room thinking you had lost, but who soon learned you had won a big, if still unsecured, victory - congratulations.
I left admiring the participants, from Hunter and Gibbons and the doctor and the landowner, to the homeowners who would have had to live with another result.
Will the council vote to reject the recommendation of the Plan Commission? Will Mr. Coffey be obligated to vote to reward his patron? Will Mr. McCartin, given about three weeks to lobby the council, be able to pick up two key rezonings in two consecutive meetings?
And again, congratulations to all sides for a battle well fought.