By BRADEN LAMMERS
It will leave open greenspace along the Ohio River, expand the boat launch at Duffy’s Landing and address safety concerns along Utica Pike.
Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore unveiled his plans for Duffy’s Landing to a group of nearby residents at Perrin Pointe Monday evening. But one of the obstacles standing in the way of moving forward with the plan is a lawsuit that his been filed against the Redevelopment Commission and the former property owners adjacent to Duffy's landing by the City Council.
The city council agreed to move forward with the lawsuit because about eight acres of property were purchased by the redevelopment commission using the city’s Tax Increment Finance funds, but the land purchased does not lie within the TIF districts. Corporation and Redevelopment Commission Attorney Les Merkley said previously the purchase by the redevelopment commission is not limited to all property within TIF districts, but provisions allow for purchases of land outside the designated area that benefit a TIF district.
Moore insisted the lawsuit would not stop the project, but it may cause some delays in moving forward with all the plans.
“We’re not really trying to stop this project,” said City Councilman Dennis Julius. “We are hoping with the ruling, that purchases just don’t go out and happen.”
He added that the council wasn’t even aware of the purchase of the property next to Duffy’s Landing until months after the land had been bought.
Moore said that was an issue the council should take up with its two redevelopment commission appointments.
The plan for Duffy’s Landing calls for a three-way stop and a cross walk to be placed at Utica Pike and Pawnee Drive. In addition, a bike path, 12 feet off the road and eight feet wide, would be constructed running parallel to Utica Pike.
Moore said the most important part of the plan is the multiuse pedestrian element.
Earlier this year Nancy Cox attended a Board of Public Works meeting to ask for some safety measures be implemented near Duffy’s Landing because her 12-year-old son was hit by a car while he was trying to cross the street into Cherokee Estates. Cox said previously her son would recover from the injuries he sustained.
City Councilperson Lisa Gill said she was concerned about the safety of having a stop sign on Utica Pike, because of the concern for distracted drivers, and offered that maybe a signal or a cross walk signal would improve safety.
She added that she was uneasy about the inclusion of a playground in the site plans because of the increased number of children that would be playing near Utica Pike, a sentiment many of the neighbor’s shared.
But Moore said part of the reason for unveiling the plan was to gather public input about what the nearby residents would like to see on-site.
Gill, whose district includes Perrin Pointe and Duffy’s Landing, said she would follow what her constituents decide.
“I’m going to support what they want,” Gill said.
But dropping the lawsuit the council filed is not a part of that plan.
“I’m not against the plan, it’s just the procedure [how] they went about [it]” Gill said.
The plan, in addition to the bike path and cross walks, would extend the parking lot for Duffy’s Landing, add a handicap-accessible bathroom, leave a large greenspace along the Ohio River and include a picnic area near the water.
A neighbor asked what are the hurdles to complete the project, and Moore said the council’s lawsuit.
“This is the first time anybody on the city council has seen this plan,” Julius said. “It’s pretty unfair for you to say the city council’s against this plan when we’ve never seen the plan.”
Moore said the plan had just been drafted, but pointed to the concept that had been laid out as part of a number of projects he unveiled in May 2012. He also said previously that the landing will take on added significance with the plan to redevelop the Jeffersonville Marina, because a boat launch near Spring Street would be removed leaving Duffy’s Landing as the only place in Jeffersonville to launch a boat.
The bike path would also tie into a proposed 23-mile bike-and-hike trail proposed by Moore. The bike-and-hike plan called for bike paths and trails to be constructed, creating a loop around the city, for $3 million over the course of six years.
“Anybody that lives around here is going to appreciate it,” he said. “Your land values are going to go up. This is not only a quality of life issue and a public safety issue this is a investment in our city.”
And the plan Moore presented to move forward with the improvements at Duffy’s Landing totaled about $150,000.
Julius said that does not consider all the cost, including the purchase price for the land, which Moore pointed to during his presentation to the neighbors. Julius added that the $150,000 cost estimate doesn’t take into account any of the city’s labor costs.
“I don’t believe that includes any of our in-kind service,” he said of the cost estimate. “We have to count those dollars, too. It’s a little deceiving.”
“I don’t consider someone who works by the week in the city part of the costs,” Moore said. “That’s their job: to make the city look better.”
Both agreed the money spent to purchase the property near Duffy’s Landing has been spent and could not be recovered, even via the lawsuit.
“We’re not asking for them to give the money back,” Julius said of the money used to purchase the property. “We’re just trying to make sure for future purchases that this is not the way it’s done.”
The council will seek a judicial ruling to ensure that it doesn’t.