By BRADEN LAMMERS
A plan to revamp Jeffersonville’s waterfront marina was voted down by the Jeffersonville City Council on Monday, before approving its own resolution to ensure the marina plan doesn’t die.
Two amendments that would allow the city to pay out of its Tax Increment Finance funds to construct a new downtown marina along Riverside Drive were voted down by the council 5-3 with Councilmen Bryan Glover, Zach Payne and Matt Owen voting in favor of amending the TIF plan.
An ongoing process to get approval to build the project had cleared a hurdle with a public notice that had been issued with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over the whole project. Public comment on the plan was open until Dec. 2 and Jorge Lanz, president of Jacobi, Toombs and Lanz, Inc., who presented the details on the marina plan to the council, said it would be about 30 days after the public comment period closed before a permit could be issued.
But with the denial, he said the corps will probably pull the permit that was submitted.
Lanz said that the corps has been very clear in seeking the permits to carry out the plan that if the city does not intend to move forward with the project, the permits would not be granted.
He added it would take six months to a year to resubmit for the permits to construct the docks, if the corps would accept them.
“It’s dead,” said Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore. “They’ve killed it. I’m extremely disappointed some of the council members are anti-progress. The council has had this in front of them for seven months [and] they refuse to move forward.”
But the council argued that the actual plans, rather than renderings, were only presented to them on Monday.
“Basically, we’re fully supportive of the project,” said City Councilman Nathan Samuel. “All we saw was a rendering with no detail.”
He said the council wasn’t comfortable with the plan being presented Monday, and wasn’t willing to commit the funding — yet.
“This is an issue that had whole-hearted support,” Moore said. “Nobody is happy with what we have down there now. We had a plan to do it, we had the money to do it.”
But the council did take a step, shortly before the meeting adjourned, that it hoped would keep the Corps from pulling the project permit and show that the city was in support of moving forward with a plan to revamp the waterfront.
A resolution was passed — with Glover, Payne and Owen voting against — that authorized the Redevelopment Commission to continue with the marina plans, seek the required permits, but stop short of beginning actual construction on the plan until a full detailed proposal is delivered to the council. But no funding was dedicated to the plan in the resolution.
The plan presented by Lanz on Monday called for 54 individual fixed-boat docks to be constructed, in addition to a 200-foot floating fishing pier in favor of a previously planned jetty. Other improvements included sewer connections, new lighting and a new road with a turnaround along the marina. The engineer’s estimate for the project was $2.2 million.
Proposed costs would charge boats up to 24 feet in length $1,200 for a season —April to November — and $600 for winter mooring. For each foot beyond 24 feet, the boat owner would be charged $50 for each additional foot during the season, $25 per foot in the winter.
Current fees are about $1,125 annually.
Boat renters were not pleased with the cost of the rent per year and said that the amenities and exposure and risks of being on the Ohio River were too high.
“What they’re proposing doesn’t change anything for us except for raising the price,” said Chuck Whittaker, a Jeffersonville boat owner. “The way they were approaching it, we’re pleased they turned it down.”
Whittaker added, as it stands, the boat owners are saving the city money by doing their own maintenance to their own docks.
“We save the city thousands of dollars a year by washing [away] mud and debris,” he said.
But they did agree something needs to be done.
“The docks are in disarray,” said Carolyn Gordon, a Jeffersonville boat owner. “The docks that are owned by us are not. The docks that are rented are maintained, and they’re nice, but the derelict docks that nobody’s using are horrible and that’s the city’s fault.”
Gordon said she has been on the river for 34 years and has invested $16,000 in her dock. She suggested offering longer-term leases to encourage more boat owners to invest in building docks on the riverfront.
Fire Chief Eric Hedrick said the docks in disrepair on the river are a public safety issue.