News and Tribune

June 27, 2013

Project for Falls Landing rejected to negotiate price

Commission still plans to negotiate exclusively with White Reach

By BRADEN LAMMERS
braden.lammers@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE —

Less than a week after choosing a plan from White Reach Development to develop Falls Landing, it was rejected by the Jeffersonville Redevelopment Commission.

A request for proposal, or RFP, accepted at a special meeting last Thursday was rejected by the redevelopment commission in order to negotiate a purchase price with the Lexington-based developer on 4 acres of property near the corner of Spring and 10th streets.

“The only way they can negotiate a purchase price is to reject and wait 30 days,” said Redevelopment Commission Attorney Les Merkley. It was suggested several times throughout the RFP process by Merkley that the commission reject the proposals and wait 30 days to negotiate with the developers.

No price was offered in the RFP previously presented by White Reach, but a price was “to be determined” if the proposal was accepted.

The plan White Reach offered, and that was ultimately chosen, won out over a proposal presented by Jeffersonville-based API because it included two hotels, as opposed to one, the restaurants and the retail spaces proposed were stand-alone buildings and the hotels were located farther from the 10th Street gateway to the city. API’s offered purchase price was $1.

While no purchase price was offered by White Reach, Steve Reach, managing member of White Reach Development, said previously that the firm would seek incentives like New Market Tax Credits, and the breaks received by the developer would go back to the city by way of the property’s purchase price.

But in order to enter those negotiations, Merkley said the proposal needed to be rejected and the commission will have to wait out the 30-day window.

“There was a question about the legality in the way it was presented, so to be transparent to the public and everyone we felt it was best to reject it, wait the 30 days and negotiate then,” said Redevelopment Commission President R. Monty Snelling.

Legally, the commission at the end of the 30 days could entertain offers from other developers, but that is not the plan.

“The commission has made it clear .... that their intent is to negotiate with White Reach on a purchase price,” Merkley said.

Snelling reaffirmed the sentiment and said the negotiations would be exclusive to White Reach.

“Their vision was far beyond the other [plan], it was more to the liking of all of the commission and I can’t see that changing,” he said. “It would be unfair if you went ahead and said, ‘Well, we’re going to reject it, and come back in 30 days and start talking to other companies.’”

Redevelopment Commissioner James Lake was insistent that one of the developers be awarded the RFP at the commission’s previous meeting.

“I think it is completely unfair to the people that submitted the RFPs [that] the only way that you can come up with an agreement ... is to reject it and just negotiate carte blanche,” he said previously. “I think it’s a completely disingenuous situation. I’m not prepared to reject them. I’m actually prepared to approve one.”

Lake said he was in favor of rejecting the proposal at this point on advice from counsel, that there was more understanding of the process at this point and it was a procedural matter that needed to be clarified.

But Lake, also, was clear on whether or not it would open up the proposed development site to other companies.

“Our intent is to move forward with this group,” he said.