Finance Committee Tables Mayor’s Plan to Study Boulevard Development

Plan is one of two proposals that could guide site's future.

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City Council is weighing two plans that could shape the future of the 61-acre property around The Diamond.

Both resolutions -- one led by Mayor Dwight C. Jones and the other by councilmen John Baliles and Charles Samuels -- lay out the process for accepting development proposals for the city-owned parcel.

The city's finance committee, on which Samuels sits as an alternate member, tabled consideration of the mayor’s proposal Thursday afternoon. The committee is scheduled to reconsider the Jones resolution during its Dec. 17 meeting. The Baliles and Samuels proposal has been continued 18 times since the Nov. 9 City Council meeting.

A key difference is that the proposal from Baliles and Samuels doesn’t rule out the future of baseball for the area, and says that plans “may or not include a Minor League baseball stadium.” The mayor’s plan makes no mention of baseball.

Jones’ plan also calls for a study and community meetings to help determine the best use for the area before soliciting developer proposals. Chief Administrative Officer Selena Cuffee-Glenn says the city will present the public with analysis that considers the tax revenue that can be generated under a number of development plans, including a stadium.

Under Jones’ resolution, the land also could be turned over to the economic development authority, which operates under different procurement processes, and sometimes is used to skirt red tape and public input to get projects done.

Baliles and Samuels say that one of their biggest hesitations with the mayor's plan is that the proposed timeline to solicit public opinion for the site is too short.

“I think extending the public comments section and getting good public feedback from not just one or two meetings is going to be important to ensure that whatever happens on that site is going to have good community buy-in,” Samuels says.

But the timeline is appropriate, says Cuffee-Glen and Councilwoman Cathy Graziano, who serves as patron of the mayor's proposal with fellow council members Michelle Mosby, Ellen Robertson, Cynthia Newbille and Chris Hilbert.

The proposal states that by February and March, the city plans to review the results of the study to determine the best use of the area and public feedback. By May, the mayor aims to begin soliciting proposals from development firms.

Samuels also says that he's concerned about the potential for the area to be turned over to the economic development authority because of transparency. In November 2014, the EDA raised eyebrows when Hourigan Construction was awarded the contract for Stone Brewing when it filed work-permit applications the same day that the Stone plan was announced.

When the vote was taken, Samuels stood in for Councilwoman Ellen Robertson, who is one of three members that typically make up the committee. In the end, councilmembers Parker Agelasto and Samuels voted against Graziano to table the motion.

Baliles isn’t on the committee but attended the session.

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