This past Tuesday, once again I attended a CdA City Council meeting and, once again, I left shaking my head in disbelief. It was not because the council disagreed with my views, my frustration was because they again neglected to do their due diligence for the citizens of our community.
And because, also once again, they used outlandish and disrespectful intimidation methods toward people who stood up to voice concerns.
Let’s start with the way they grilled the President of the Fort Grounds Homeowner’s Association. This gentleman stood up to report that the neighborhood supports NIC and the expansion of the college, but would rather have the more protective R-17 the college is currently zoned. The proposed C-17 zone for the new mill site property is like a blank check, he said, anything can be built on it, without height restrictions.
Then Councilman Kennedy started in on him. Mike Kennedy asked if all the homeowners had voted in a “formal vote”. No, the president said, but they did have two meetings recently, in which most of the homeowners expressed serious concerns about the C-17 zone. Was there a “formal vote” taken?, Mr. Kennedy demanded. No the president said patiently, again explaining about the meetings, emails and comments he’s received. Kennedy asked this same question at least 4 times. Each time the answer was the same patient explanation from the homeowner’s president. Then Deanna Goodlander jumped in to the ride the wave: She asked about the same thing!
Dan Gookin got up to speak about protecting the waterfront with a more restrictive zone, at least until a plan is established. Mr. Kennedy quickly went after Dan in a big way, asking one particular question over and over and over and over, all the while Kennedy was becoming increasingly frustrated because he was not getting the “gottcha” moment he wanted.
What is going on in this town? Why would Mike Kennedy be such an attack dog on anyone questioning the C-17 zone for the mill site land? Perhaps it’s because his boss, Steve Meyer, is on the NIC Foundation and his boss’ wife, Judy Meyer, is on the NIC Board of Trustees. Mike works full-time for one of Steve’s companies, but Mike announced at the beginning of the council meeting that he would not recuse himself from this hearing “just because I happen to know a few people on the Foundation”. His boss is just someone he happens to know?
Steve Meyer owns Parkwood Properties, a commercial development company, with Charlie Nipp, who’s a longtime LCDC member. Steve and Charlie have been partners for years. Mike Kennedy started working full-time for one of Steve’s other businesses soon after he was elected to the city council. But Mike has no conflict of interest?
Mayor Bloem stated at a different meeting last week, that the C-17 zoning was important for the mill site because they might want to have a “hotel...I mean restaurant” down on the riverfront. When someone reminded her that NIC currently has a student restaurant under the more restrictive R-17 zone, the mayor admitted that they might want a private business to build on the riverfront, so that is why they need C-17.
But they all admitted there is no plan. NIC, the NIC Foundation and the City all clearly stated there is no plan, yet they pushed ahead for zoning.
Susie Snedaker, who was on P&Z for 11 years, stood up to suggest that the whole issue of zoning should be pulled back until a Master Plan can be established and brought forward to the public. That is the logical progression, she reported, not this open-ended zoning without a plan.
So what great effort did our city council show to protect the best interest of the community they were elected to serve? Zero. Zero questions about possible negative impacts of the C-17 zone. Zero concerns about protection of the waterfront. Almost zero mention of the need for some sort of plan and zero discussion about the other more protective zoning options of C-17L or R-17.
It was a lovefest between the city and NIC. Councilman Woody McEvers topped it off with his comments. He said he would vote in favor of the C-17 zone because he thinks the folks at NIC are “good people” and they are the government. Woody said, If you can’t trust the government, who can you trust? (I am not making this up) He finished up by saying that if NIC wants to sell off some of the “dirt” to make some money, it’s fine with him because he trusts ‘em.
And there you have it. That’s what we, the citizens of CdA, have for due diligence, serious oversight and probing research into what is in the best interest of our community.