News and Tribune

February 5, 2013

Museum plan needs council approval

Lease approved by redevelopment to be revisited

By BRADEN LAMMERS
braden.lammers@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE — Questions about the procedure followed when a lease was approved at a Jeffersonville Redevelopment Commission meeting may cause the document to be void if it is not also approved by the city council.

City Councilman Ed Zastawny attempted to offer a resolution that would require plans to enter into a lease with the Clark County Museum to go through council approval because it was a change in the original plan for which the property being leased was purchased.

However, the resolution was not added to the agenda because the vote was not unanimous.

The vote against came from Council Member Matt Owen, who explained he did not vote to add the resolution to the agenda because it was offered at the last minute and he did not have a chance to review the resolution before being asked to vote on it.

City Council Attorney Scott Lewis said the issue was similar to an amendment of a bond issue brought before the council to include the proposed 10th Street police station as a possible use for the funds.

Since the money was sought under the previous administration under the premise of constructing a canal, a requirement existed that the Planning and Zoning Commission and the city council approve the amendment to the plan. 

“These proposed leases for these museums was on property that was required ... for the purpose of the storm water conveyance system,” Lewis said. “If there is a lease that’s going to be executed to put a possible use for the funds.

Since the money was sought under the previous administration under the premise of constructing a canal, a requirement existed that the Planning and Zoning Commission and the city council approve the amendment to the plan. 

“These proposed leases for these museums was on property that was required ... for the purpose of the storm water conveyance system,” Lewis said. “If there is a lease that’s going to be executed to put a museum in there ... that is a change in the plan that requires the statutory procedure that we had done before. Those leases would not be legally valid unless this statutory procedure was followed.” 

The one lease approved was for the Clark County Museum to move into two properties at 721 and 725 Michigan Ave.  The agreement would allow the museum to lease the property for 50 years — with five renewals every 10 years — at $1 per year. In addition, a lease-purchase agreement was  approved by the redevelopment commission for the property at 214 Court Ave., to convert a former restaurant into a vintage cafe and coffee shop.

Discussions were also offered at the redevelopment commission meeting when the museum’s lease was approved that nearby properties would be open to development for an arts center to locate in the former Gray & Wells Collision Center.

Redevelopment Commission President R. Monty Snelling said when he explained the potential for the property, following the approval of the museum’s lease, that the area could serve as the anchor for a walkable downtown art-and-history district.

Zastawny said at Monday’s meeting the two other non-profits were the art center and the New Albany Vintage Fire Museum and Education Center, which would potentially reopen upon relocation. A restaurant was also a possibility.

“What they’ve proposed doing is $1 leases for 50 years for some non-profit museums,” he said. “I can appreciate that, but if you look at it from the fiscal body’s standpoint, what we’re doing is we’re giving property that we paid millions of dollars for...and we’re putting non-profits in there that are not going to pay any property taxes, not increase any assessed values [and] not create any new jobs.  That’s certainly a change in the plan in my opinion.”

“In every single one, except for the restaurant, my understanding is it’s a $1-a-year, 50 year lease,” he added.

Councilman Dennis Julius agreed and said the city should be seeking private companies to develop the property.

“We’ve bought $2 million worth of property and we want to lease them for 50 years? I think it’s a horrible decision fiscally for the city,” he said. “The problem with it is if you start taking little bits and pieces out of it and make them unusable for a 50 year time period, you’re destroying the ... ability to have a project.” 

 

Flood control bond still on hold

For the fourth time a bond resolution that was presented to the council relating to the repair of the Cane Run and Mill Creek pump stations was tabled.

The council has stalled on granting its approval for the $7.5 million bond because it has been waiting to hear the rationale behind Mayor Mike Moore’s vote against the bond resolution.

Moore explained to the News and Tribune that his concern was based on not knowing what the bond would cost local residents and how many people are in the joint flood district that the rate increase would affect.

Lowe said at Monday’s council meeting that after an update was provided at the Jeffersonville-Clarksville Flood Control District Jan. 25, Moore was more comfortable with the costs moving forward.

However, the mayor was not in attendance at the council meeting to answer their questions about the bond, so the resolution was tabled again.

The initial estimate of the cost to a homeowner, based on a $100,000 home, is about $20 per year.