Yesterday's Paducah Board of Commissioners meeting couldn’t hold a candle to tonight’s fireworks. Tensions were high and Commissioner Richard Abraham came loaded for bear. Attendees included Mayor Brandi Harless, Commissioner Abraham, Commissioner Sandra Wilson, Commissioner Brenda McElroy, City Manager Jim Arndt, and City Clerk Lindsey Parish. Commissioner Gerald Watkins was absent.
Items on the agenda included the City Block Development Agreement, the First Right of Refusal Agreement Extension with Riverfront Hotel (Lingate Hospitality) at 501 North 3rd, and the Rezoning of property at 401 Walter Jetton Boulevard.
The City Block Development Agreement was highly contested by Commissioner Abraham. Into question was the expertise on hand during previous contract negotiations with Weyland Ventures Development, LLC. Abraham expressed concerns about legal counsel not 'being at the table' during negotiations that dealt with millions of dollars. He believed the city might have gotten a better deal had the city's attorney been at the meetings.
City Manager Arndt said that it’s a matter of preference whether or not an attorney is present during negotiations. The city’s attorney was confident in the team assembled to negotiate the deal with the developer. Abraham continued to push the issue and did go as far as accusing Mayor Brandi Harless of looking out for her own interests.
As the rhetoric continued, Mayor Harless charged Commissioner Abraham of trying to defame her in public. She said he was calling into question her character and didn’t understand what he was trying to do. Commissioners Wilson and McElroy defended Mayor Harless, her actions and the process stating that this particular deal was one of the best the city’s attorney had ever seen.
Mayor Harless asked Commissioner Abraham if they could move on. Abraham said ‘he had the floor’ and could continue until he decided to stop. Harless asked the city clerk if she could call for a vote to end the discussion and the city clerk said she could as long as she got a second and there was a vote. In a 3 - 1 vote in favor of ending discussions about the ordinance, a vote on the ordinance was passed on the development agreement between the City and Weyland Ventures for the City Block Project. The vote was 3 - 1 with Abraham dissenting.
The City Block Project includes the development of a hotel, parking, open space, and mixed-use residential buildings located on the 2.88 acre city-owned block bounded by Second Street, Broadway, North Water Street, and Jefferson Street.
Weyland Ventures plans to invest $21 million dollars into the project and hopes to do more business with the city. The pre-development agreement asks both parties to undertake due diligence on all matters. The project has received preliminary approval as a TIF district.
The next ordinance approved in a 3 - 1 vote with Commissioner Abraham voting no was to amend and extend the agreement with Paducah Riverfront Hotel, LP for the city-owned property located at 501 North Third Street. The vacant property is located adjacent to the City’s floodwall and the Holiday Inn Paducah Riverfront. A nursing home was the last structure that was on the site before being demolished.
The agreement expired last month. The ordinance would extend the agreement for two more years with an expiration date of July 15, 2022, and amend the agreement to allow the developer more flexibility in the types of accommodations to be developed on the property.
The Rezoning of Property at 401 Walter Jetton Boulevard was introduced tonight and will be up for a vote on August 25. The site is the former Walter Jetton Junior High School. The Marian Development Group is planning to purchase the property for a renovation project called The Dunlap. The project includes residential apartments, administrative offices, education and training spaces, and performance space for two arts organizations.