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8/29/2012 1:21:00 PM
North Vernon City Council-Park Theatre joins opposition to Short St. plans
This is the area that has generated so much discussion, with Short Street at right. The Stellar plan would utilize the entire area for a plaza and downtown activities while the Taylor plan would only use the strip to the left of the railroad tracks. Both plans would hope the drive-through bank would be relocated, but neither are completely dependent on that happening.
This is the area that has generated so much discussion, with Short Street at right. The Stellar plan would utilize the entire area for a plaza and downtown activities while the Taylor plan would only use the strip to the left of the railroad tracks. Both plans would hope the drive-through bank would be relocated, but neither are completely dependent on that happening.
Plans by the Stellar Committee to create a downtown public space for activities and gatherings by closing one-block-long Short Street received another bashing at the North Vernon City Council Monday night.

At the Aug. 13 City Council meeting, local radio station owner Tom Taylor gave his reasons why the Stellar plan should not be adopted. This time, Taylor brought reinforcements with several business owners in that area accompanying him.

Accountant Bob Pettinger runs his business at the very end of Short next to the depot. He told the governors "I think the whole thing is dumb."

Pettinger explained he has "a number of seniors" who come to his office who need assistance in getting from their cars to his door. If the street is closed, he believes he will lose clients.

The Stellar plan calls for the street to be closed and a green space with benches, trees and plantings as well as a small and larger stage area to be created. Pettinger recommended that if the city wants a green space, to buy the Ford's Crossing Golf Course.

In closing, the accountant criticized the Stellar Committee for never having contacted him, even though his is the only business that can be entered solely on Short. He suggested the Council put the issue of closing the street to a public vote, an idea seconded by local resident Dr. Larry Brooks who was at the meeting on another matter.

Irv French, husband of Ingrid French who owns the White Front Restaurant across from Short, told the Council that the White Front is "not a teenage hangout" but is a place where older people patronize. As such,he needs the maximum amount of parking close to the cafe. If the street is closed, parking spaces could be lost.

The most damming protest, however, came from a letter from the Park Theatre Civic Centre's board of directors who were represented at the meeting by Bill Reichenbach.

Mayor Harold Campbell read the letter from president Hulda Reichenbach announcing "the majority of the board members oppose the closing of Short Street and changes of traffic pattern and parking of Madison Ave."

To date this year, 15,063 people have attended events at the Park, the letter noted.

"Parking was a major factor in the decision of our vote as well as the safety of the many children who attend our events and the senior citizens and those physically challenged who depend on the city's efforts to make it easier to attend our events."

The letter was also signed by Patti Yount, vice president; Merrill Salyers, treasurer; Joyce Gray, secretary; and members Ann Paul, Brian Perry, Paul Hicks, Mike Whitehead, Judith Brown, Ron Myers, Kristin Wiley, Jeff Barger, Richard Lee, Alan Marshall and Bill Reichenbach.

Perry had voted to close Short but agreed to abide by the majority. Barger said he would support the closing of Short if the bank drive-in property was obtained by the city. Bryce Mayer voted in favor of closing Short and was not listed as a signer on the letter.

Mike Marshall, who owns Christopher's on Fifth Street, was also present with Taylor's contingent but did not speak publicly.

Stellar Committee member Chris Ertel was present at the meeting for another matter and spoke in response to the criticisms.

The goal of the committee all along has been to help "rejuvenate the downtown," he noted, and the committee respects and appreciates all the improvements the businesses on Madison Avenue have completed.

"The goal was not to undermine our good neighbors. Our goal was to increase traffic...by trying to add a little juice to the mix."

Ertel also apologized to Pettinger for no member of the Committee discussing the plans with him.

In response to Taylor's recent presentation of his ideas for the Short Street area, the Stellar Committee tweaked their plans by increasing the width of the sidewalk on Madison and keeping the street one-way.

The committee also discussed how additional parking could be obtained by making Fifth Street one-way and converting parallel parking to angle parking. This idea, though, was not well received by those business owners at the meeting.

(The Plain Dealer's articles and drawings on the two proposals are available online at plaindealer-sun.com. Just click on the Stellar logo at top right. Or, back issues are available at the JC Library.)

Mayor Campbell said he felt "a good faith" effort had been made by the Stellar Committee to obtain public input on the plans. 124 meetings have been held with only three closed to the public.

"I know the board here will give it plenty of thought," he said.

Members of the City Council have yet to take a vote on the issue.

In other issues of the night:

* Area Plan Director Cheryl Trisler told the board she listened to a recording of the meeting where the Council pledged $25,000 to her office and it was clear the extra money was for cleanups in the city.

County councilor Dave Kopitzke accompanied Trisler to get a clear picture of how the money was to be spent. The matter will be further discussed at the Council's budget meeting Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the ETC.

* Animal Control board members Vicki Cardinal and Nancy Green Cruser thanked the Council for their support and reiterated their request to "give us a year" to forge ahead with improvements at the shelter.

They also asked if the Council had any opinions on the proposed ordinance but the Council said they had not yet reviewed the proposal.

County Council member Mike Kelley was present to tell the Council he has volunteered for the new board, if the proposed ordinance is enacted, "because I love animals."

* Fire chief Rick McGill described the warning device Walmart paid to be installed in front of the firehouse on Second Street. It is an actual stop light for traffic on Second and will be triggered when the department needs to respond to a fire.

* Wastewater superintendent Russell Vaught reported the South State and Greensburg Street projects will be bid in December and should start "right after the first of the year."

* The Council will appoint a committee to look into redistricting. Currently, population in the city's four Council Districts are out of whack, with a population deviation of 59.77 percent.

The goal is to equalize representation to a ten percent deviation.

Currently, District 1 has 1548 residents; District 2, 2303; District 3, 1584; and District 4, 1297.

The redistricting must be completed by the end of this year.

* Matt Goddard, principal at St. Mary's School, asked the governors for permission to close one block of Washington Street from 2:30 to 3 p.m. for dismissal procedures. The street is already closed for the school recess from 11 a.m. to noon.

Goddard also asked for a new crosswalk to be painted on Second Street.



Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Article comment by: Terry Knoll

I remember when there was a beautiful little town square on that spot between Short Street and Madison Avenue. It was called Railroad Park. The park had grass, tree-shaded walks and park benches with lots of people going in and out of the stores that bordered this lovely park. I never understood the decision to destroy it in order that the Union Bank could have a drive-thru. Who could possibly not

want this restored? There have been a lot of regrettable decisions made that have turned North Vernon from a once-charming little town to the ugly mess it is today, but destroying the town square was the worst. Restoring the park will attract people and new business. Proceeding with the Short Street Plaza is the right decision.

Posted: Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Article comment by: A.B

The Stellar Project will make North Vernon look so much better than it does now with more things for everyone in our city. Why are so many people against making that part of town a nicer place to be? Short Street is a hazard only benefiting a few as where it would benefit our community if there was a nice area to visit and take in the history of that area. The businesses complain of parking, but if I'm not mistaken there are parking lots also being put in the area from the Stellar grant. It will, if anything, draw more people to the area. As one of North Vernon's young adults who has seen the town crumble in my youth, I hope that you complete the Stellar Project as plan so that my town doesn't continue to deteriorate.



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