Opinion: Redevelopment meeting revisited – 5/18/2009

I posted Friday about the Redevelopment Commission meeting on Monday.  When I checked the Redevelopment website, only the agenda for the regular meeting was listed.  In Saturday’s News-Sentinel, Kevin Leininger wrote about an Executive Session for the Redevelopment Commission also on Monday.  The Executive Session is referenced on the agenda, but easily missed – not that it makes a difference anyway – it’s a closed meeting.In part, Leininger writes:

[…] As allowed by state law, the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission will meet behind closed doors Monday to discuss “the initiation of litigation or litigation that is either pending or has been threatened.” The issue, according to Deputy Director of Development Greg Leatherman, is Barry Real Estate Companies’ performance – or lack of it – regarding the condominiums, restaurants and shops that were supposed to open by June 1 as part of the $125 million Harrison Square project.

By law, no action can be taken in a closed executive session. But Leatherman said commission members will discuss the city’s response to Barry’s sister company, Hardball Capital’s, inability to meet the imminent deadline – something company officials have blamed on the recession and problems in the housing and financial markets. A lawsuit against Barry is not necessarily imminent, Leatherman cautioned.

“The purpose is to bring commission members up to date on our (legal) options. Some of them weren’t on the board when the agreements were signed,” he said.

It’s been a long and difficult road for the City in regards to this project, with no definite end in sight.  There has been much criticism over its genesis.  Every aspect of the project has been thoroughly scrutinized.  The City has been forthcoming and open on an unprecedented level.  This openness has been deserved by citizens who are ultimately on the hook if part of the project is not realized.

But, why meet behind closed doors at this point?  I can understand in some ways, with all the things that have been said in public both by citizens and elected officials in regards to possible action against Barry Real Estate for non-performance, why a hesitation to be too open about possible action might ocurr.  However, this community deserves to be in on the conversation at every turn.  Besides, I’m sure that whatever options will be discussed tomorrow, there won’t be anything revealed that hasn’t already been discussed at some point publicly. Â

Closing the door to the public at this junction will only refuel the negative fires that had dimmed a bit with the opening of Parkview Field.  It is vitally necessary for the community to remain involved, even if it’s only as a spectator, in the continued discussions surrounding this project.

 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Perhaps you have answered your own question. They legally can’t take action at a closed meeting, and yet have an offical meeting without public distractions, and not publically making a decision. So it is a prep meeting for the real deal. If lawsuits are goung down it is going to get real expensive real quick!

    • I agree Mark – that probably is the reason for the closed door. However, I think the public deserves that explanation up front – and there wouldn’t really be an public distraction because the public wouldn’t be allowed to speak unless the pubic distraction would come from the discussion being in front of the public which might make it not so open and frank. I do think that with the Redevelopment Commissioners, the tone would be a bit different than that of say a Council meeting where it felt as if one or two were out for blood. I’m not saying anything against Councilman Shoaff, but there is a difference.

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