White Reach Development LLC is continuing with its plans for a commercial development at 10th and Spring streets despite the majority of the Jeffersonville City Council denying a rezoning of the property.
The council denied a rezoning of 17 parcels of land to highway commercial status at the busy intersection for the development with a 6-2 vote at Monday’s meeting. Approving the zoning request was the final hurdle standing in front of the development company purchasing the property and starting construction.
Instead, White Reach is tweaking its design plans to fit on the property’s parcels that are already zoned highway commercial. This means that the development known as the Gateway Project will be losing a Holiday Inn Express and Staybridge Suites.
“We’re splitting hairs to try to make this thing fit on there now,” said Mike Fulkerson, development partner for the project.
Fulkerson said he was not expecting the rezoning request to fail.
“I was really shocked that the city council would turn down this magnitude of a development,” he said.
Six of the nine council members had concerns about the proposed development, despite the promise of big dollars.
Councilman Ed Zastawny said he first had these concerns in March.
The News and Tribune published an article in October that listed McDonald’s, Zaxby’s and Cracker Barrel as examples of restaurants that would be part of the development.
Zastawny and Councilman Nathan Samuel set up a meeting in March with city officials to express their issues with the plan.
One of these is increased traffic at a five-point intersection that already sees a lot of vehicles. Zastawny said a McDonald’s would bring in more cars and congest traffic. He said council members also were concerned about the railroad track splitting the property in two and wasn’t sure opening up Indiana Avenue was a good idea.
“The plan was to talk to the developer and hopefully tweak the plan so it didn’t get voted down so we didn’t waste the developer’s time,” he said.
In a guest column by Samuel published this week in the News and Tribune, he said that the meeting with White Reach never happened. He said that the mayor’s administration relayed the council’s concerns to the developer, but White Reach “felt this is the best project to move forward with.”
Zastawny met with Fulkerson about two months ago in hopes that he would pass along the council’s concerns with White Reach officials themselves.
“He just kind of listened,” Zastawny said.
Fulkerson said that he didn’t know the council was going to vote against the rezoning.
“If we thought for one minute that we would have got the zoning turned down ... we would have worked with them,” Fulkerson said.
Zastawny said that in additional to logistical problems, he also was unhappy with the types of commercial businesses that were a part of the plan.
Instead, his vision would be to include a higher-end hotel such a Courtyard by Marriott and two or three sit-down restaurants, such as Cracker Barrel, TGI Friday’s or Max and Erma’s.
“The reason I start with those places is those are the places that people would spend a little more time in Jeffersonville,” he said.
Fast food restaurants wouldn’t encourage people to stay and explore what the city has to offer, he said. He added that the city gets more revenue from property and income taxes, not from sales taxes.
“So we would want high property investment and high salary businesses,” he said.
His preference would be to spend more time choosing the best plan available for the property.
“This is the first time we’ve ever put this property out for [request for proposal],” he said. “What the council would like to have is a larger piece of property for RFP and a long period of time for us to get additional proposals.
“If I didn’t think we could get a better plan there, I would have settled for this.”