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October 3, 2012

New Albany fire station move gets OK

Residents speak in opposition of move to Camille Wright at BZA meeting

NEW ALBANY — The New Albany Board of Zoning Appeals approved a special exception Tuesday that permits a fire station to be constructed at the former Camille Wright Pool property at 224 Daisy Lane.

As requested by the New Albany Board of Public Works and Safety and backed by Mayor Jeff Gahan’s administration, the special exception means Fire Station No. 4 off Green Valley Road adjacent to the Kroger shopping center could be closed and moved to the Daisy Lane site.

The proposed relocation ties into a “valid economic development interest that’s been expressed to the city” that would see a business group purchase the Green Valley Road station, Director of Community Housing Initiatives Carl Malysz told the BZA board.

Malysz spoke on behalf of the administration during the meeting. Though Malysz said due to confidentiality reasons the name of the potential buyer could not be mentioned, City Attorney Stan Robison said during a City Council meeting last month that the reason for the proposal was due to “Kroger expanding.”

According to Malysz, the potential buyer would buy the Green Valley Road station and pay for the construction of a new fire house at the Camille Wright property, which he said could cost up to $1.7 million.

But several residents spoke against moving the station to Daisy Lane, with only city  officials speaking in favor of the proposal. Excessive lighting, noise and issues with traffic flow were some of the concerns expressed by residents opposed to the idea.

“It also concerns me that they’re not telling us everything,” said Rita Smith, whose sister lives near the proposed fire station in a house where the two were raised.

“It looks like to me that this is a done deal, whether the residents want it or not.”

Multiple people wanted specifics about the buyer proposing to purchase the Green Valley Road station, which was constructed in 1993. They also questioned the process, and if they would be allowed to weigh-in further on the matter before the potential business deal is struck and the fire station moved.

Since the proposal was for a special exception, the city council will not have a vote on the issue. But the New Albany-Floyd County Parks and Recreation board will have to agree to convey the Camille Wright property to the city.

The special exception passed 4-1, with Jameson Bledsoe being the lone member to vote against the measure.

He said he supports economic development and job creation.

“But at the same time, a city’s foundation is its residents,” Bledsoe said, as he added commercial interests sometimes seem to trump the wants of the people living in New Albany.

“Sometimes I think we look at things backwards in this city.”

Bledsoe asked almost every resident that spoke what they would like to see the Camille Wright property used for, and most said a park.

“I would like to have it as something for our kids to do,” said Jennifer Farmer, who lives near the Camille Wright site. “I don’t want a fire house I want something nice there.”

Several requirements were added by the staff to the request before it was approved, including restrictions on lighting, the stipulation a drainage basin be added on the site and a vow by the administration that part of the property could be used for a neighborhood park.

Additionally, Fire Chief Matt Juliot said fire engines wouldn’t sound loud horns within close proximity of the Daisy Lane station.

“We want to be good neighbors,” he said.

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Erin Klein, a nationally-recognized education blogger and Tom Murray, State and District Digital Learning Policy and Advocacy Director for the Alliance for Excellent Education in Washington, D.C., speak to a group of educators at Jeffersonville High School on Monday. They were just a couple of the big-name education personalities at the second annual Greater Clark Connected Conference.

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