Aldermen strive for more orderly meetings

City planner addresses board
City planner Bob Barber gives officials an update on progress of New Albany Next, the comprehensive plan
November 8th, 2019     Government & Politics

City Board 5NOV2019:

Citizens who regularly attend meetings of the New Albany Board of Aldermen found things a bit different this time.

This was the first meeting of the board using a new policy to help keep meetings on track and from lapsing into overlapping discussion among those attending the meeting.

Now, attendees are not permitted to speak unless they are placed on the agenda well in advance of the meeting, or are called on by city officials. Also, any person who does speak is limited to a timed five minutes.

Plans are also in the works to install lights for each board member that can be used to signal a desire to comment.

Mayor Kent said the board wants to more closely adhere to traditional rules of order and another change was to group items not likely to call for much discussion, such as minutes and claims, under a consent agenda heading that can be adopted with a single motion.

The first item on Tuesday’s agenda was a public hearing on a rezoning request for 1024 Barksdale to change it from R-2 residential to R-4 residential. Since the planning and zoning board recommended that change be approved and no one appeared to comment on the request, aldermen granted it. Mayor Tim Kent noted that the change is generally in keeping with the nature of the neighborhood.

In public appearances, attorney John Haynes was scheduled to speak in connection with a request that had been tabled to rezone property on the north side of I-22 east of New Albany, owned by Ray Tune.

Haynes was not present, however, and Mayor Tim Kent said that Haynes had met with planner Bob Barber, who shared a draft of planned new zoning for that area and Haynes seemed satisfied with that.

Tune had wanted the property to be changed to commercial zoning, which drew some opposition from neighborhood residents, but the main reason aldermen wanted to delay taking action appeared to be that the new comprehensive plan under development would include more appropriate zoning than is now available. The plan is likely to call for mixed residential and light, neighborhood commercial development for such property.

Planner Barber himself was also on the public appearance agenda Tuesday, to report that a draft of the comprehensive plan, New Albany Next, should be ready shortly. “We hope to have the draft this week and then there will be a review process,” he said. “Then it will go before the planning and zoning board and you (aldermen) for adoption.”

Barber reiterated how impressed his team has been with New Albany and reminded everyone that a key part of their work is the rewriting of city codes in addition to the long-range plan. “This will move the city from 1980s kind of thinking to today,” he said.

In department business, light, gas and water manager Bill Mattox received approval for about $850,000 in payments related to different projects. They include the natural gas system expansion into Marshall County, sewer work and construction for the new wastewater treatment plant to be built north of town and the water system expansion on Hwy. 348. Although this represents a large dollar amount, it will essentially be paid for through grants rather than local money.

Community development director Billye Jean Stroud reminded the board that the city was hosting an Urban Forestry Council meeting this week, during which the city was to receive an award.

City receives preservation honor

Mayor Tim Kent and Community Development Director Billye Jean Stroud hold a commendation from the Department of Archives and History recognizing New Albany’s efforts to preserve historic buildings.

She also reminded the board that the annual downtown Holiday Open House will be Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m., serving as unofficial beginning of the Christmas shopping season.

The next community event will be the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony Nov. 21. This year the program will be expanded to include a music program at the civic center following the tree lighting.

The New Albany Christmas Parade will be Dec. 2.

Ward One Alderwoman Amy Livingston asked Stroud about the status of making New Albany a Certified Local Government and Stroud said it has been approved. The next step will be for the historic preservation commission to meet and begin making assessments and recommendations. Obvious buildings that need focus include the old jail, former city hall and possibly B. F. Ford School.

Police Chief Chris Robertson had only one item. He asked that Shane Tillery replace Joe Keaton as police officer on a conditional basis. That’s because Keaton is being called up for up to 400 days of active military service. Board members approve the hiring.

Park and recreation director Johnny Epting made a rare board appearance concerning some equipment needs. He recommended and received approval for low bid purchases of vandalism repair to the coach pitch concession stand at a cost of $8,450, painting another concession stand at a cost of $13,765, replacement fencing at a cost of $10,379, and a skid steer at a cost of $44,472.

Building inspector and zoning administrator Eric Thomas reported that the planning and zoning board approved a request to split a lot at 595 Hillcrest. The approval came because the lot is oversized and a duplex will be built on one of the two new sections.

Thomas also asked that a public hearing be set for Dec. 3 on whether the city will clean up a lot at 502 Clark St.  The city may clean lots when needed and the property owner does not, and the cost of the cleanup can be attached to the property.

Before the meeting adjourned, Alderwoman Livingston provided an update on the city junior aldermen program, saying they had gotten a late start but that selections have been made and those selected may attend the next meeting. She said 34 students submitted essays that underwent blind judging with 20 of those students being accepted. This is the third year for the program in which the students study local government, represent parts of the city and work on community development projects, some of which are carried out.

The next regular board meeting was set for Dec. 3.

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