Tuesday, April 20, 2010

They Will Get Blindsided Sometimes

I caught a little of the Council Planning Committee session today and began to realize that some of our council members have little or no clue as to where they stand in most of their processes. This evening, I forced myself to watch the replay for some of the details.

There was a presentation on the status of the recommendations of the Downtown Master Plan and where we go from here. It started slowly but picked up steam as it went along, but I am not sure that some of these folks know what is going on.

The topic of two to one way streets elicited a question of just when they would be completed, although the council has allocated no funds nor decided on a timeline to BEGIN. This also caused council member Beard to bring up the outdated sign ordinance prohibiting overhanging, perpendicular signs in the downtown area. He then had to be reminded that the council had revised that ordinance some time ago and since then, no signs have been changed out. I begin to wonder if members keep up on just what it is that vote on.

Parking, in particular the Parking Authority, was brought up by Vice Mayor Gray. The question was: Is, or should, our parking situation making a profit? Since the Authority is less than 4 years old, was Gray not on the council at the time it was created and was he not part of defining its goals and purposes. And, again, council member Beard questioned why the City owned garages were NOT part of the Authority's purview.

Then came the real bru-ha-ha. The idea of Design Guidelines. From Lawless to Feigel and Ellinger to Blues and Stinnett, I am not sure that any of them understand what is meant by "design guidelines". It is so easy to throw the terms "form based" and "design standards" around like they mean something, but these guys must think that they just magically appear. Council member Lawless asked why, after the Council adopted the Master Plan, that no guidelines had been brought forth and enacted into ordinance. That answer is real simple. The Council has NOT asked the Planning Division to prepare any. Nor have they funded a consultant to assist in preparations, nor a staff to oversee any review process. The Council has not even given any indication of which type of guidelines they would prefer, form based-strict control- hybrid, nothing. This situation is worse that an un-funded mandate from Congress.

If I recall, the council adopted the Downtown Master Plan in response to the CentrePointe controversy, in a very knee-jerk reaction. Now, they think that that adoption will have some teeth in the CVS drugstore project review. In the meantime, they have been advised, either as a group or individually, that they need to decide what they want to initiate. If we have a strict set of guidelines, do we have an individual or a board rule on them? If we have a set of "form based" rules, then should they be strict or somewhat lax? It was pointed out that under some "form based" rules, two of our popular projects(Main & Rose and Nunn Lofts) would not have passed and the despised Federal Attorneys office building would have sailed right on through.

And there was the discussion of the various conversations about the Cox St lot of the Lexington Center. One of the recommendations in the Downtown Master Plan is to build an amphitheater there and the DDA has not changed that in any way. Yet, somehow the idea has spread from the Creative Cities Summit and elsewhere, that the new arena should (and would) go there. Now the council members became worried because they had no communications from Lexington Center and no representation on the exploratory panel and no part in the location decisions. Any new arena and its location (and name-it will probably NOT be named Rupp so it should not be referred to as the new Rupp Arena) has not been decided upon so everyone can put their noses back in joint. What was not spoken of was the non-theoretical development that has been approved by the Lexington Center Board, the lease with R. J. Corman for the local dinner train. While everyone else was jockeying for a position, the Corman people came in with a masterful creative move to tie the Distillery District to the Lexington Center and the rest of downtown, and our council members are apparently unaware of it.

This is not the first time that I have seen this type of behavior in council members. Many times they have been shown, looking intently interested in the presentation or to answers to inquiries yet later, show little or no understanding of what they have voted on. All that most of them know is that they DID something, sometimes they are not sure WHAT.

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