JEFFERSONVILLE — Tempers flared at a packed Jeffersonville City Council meeting Monday where the board voted against reconsideration of tax credits for a potential downtown development.
Alan Muncy, owner of arc, was prepared to present to the council for a third time a $3.5 million mixed retail/residential development at a property he owns at Spring and Market streets at the Monday meeting. The agenda included a resolution on the matter which if approved, would mean a tax deduction on the assessed value of the property, which is in the Urban Enterprise Zone.
In turn for the credits, business owners pay a portion of those savings to the Jeffersonville Urban Enterprise Association, which manages funds for the UEZ, according to the resolution.
But the council voted 5-3 against bringing the discussion back — with council members Joe Paris, Scott Hawkins, Lisa Gill, Ron Ellis and Nathan Samuel opposed. The board has voted against the project at regular meetings in May and again earlier this month.
Those who had signed up for public comment, as well as Muncy himself, were allowed to speak at the end of the meeting.
Muncy said during public comment that he doesn't understand why the board isn't going for it, and that he's "earned the right to have an explanation." He said he doesn't know what he can change about the project to make it more amenable to the board.
"The investment me and my company have made over the past 40 years...no one gives me the courtesy of an explanation," he said. "I just don't understand it and I'm ashamed to say I'm from Jeffersonville."
Several others called for the council to make known their reasons.
Council member Hawkins said it's not true that he hasn't spoken on why — he said he talked at a previous meeting about his concerns with how the Jeffersonville Urban Enterprise Association (JUAE) works. He said he doesn't want to give taxpayers funds that will be filtered into an entity that does not have the same transparency requirements as a governmental board.
"I'm elected to be a protector of taxpayer money," he said. "How can I in good conscience give taxpayer money to an entity [that won't share information?]"
Gill said she also does not support money going into the JUAE.
"If we're getting hung up on where the money's going to go, we need to figure that out," said council member Matt Owen, who's supported the project and the tax credits.
The roughly dozen others who addressed the board during public comment spoke of Muncy's and arc's contributions to the community and urged the council to not let the project — which is planned to include a restaurant with a James Beard award-winning chef — get lost to another municipality.
"This project can bring so many people from across Louisville to here," one woman said during public comment. "Do we really want to pass that up because two sides can't agree?"
She said she thinks if arc doesn't get the credits, that "they will go to New Albany," she said. "Do we really want to play second fiddle to New Albany?
"I would love to be able to keep my money in Jeffersonville."
Council member Dustin White said that when bids for proposal went out for the location, Muncy had been the only one to respond. He wants to know why the city is turning down a $3.5 million investment.
"Right now, we have a parking lot that's been empty for 50 years," he said, adding that for the past 19, it has not generated revenue. "If nothing is built, nobody benefits."
Muncy said after the meeting he's not sure what he'll do next, or whether he'll still develop the property which he closed on in May, after the council's first vote against the credits. In June, the JUAE brought litigation against him for the estimated $450,000 the association would have received if the council had voted for the tax credits.