University Parkway Master Plan Commentary

If Vanderburgh County wants “smart and sustainable growth”, then University Parkway MUST have a master plan!

The Evansville & Vanderburgh County Comprehensive Plan has goals to include “arranging land uses to create a pattern of orderly development” and to “value neighborhoods”, and to “preserve the character and aesthetics of the neighborhood environment” and “in residential neighborhoods, exclude incompatible uses that would alter the character of the area”. The Plan outlines the advantages of a neighborhood planning and development program to include an emphasis that neighborhoods are an integral part of the quality of life in the City and County, it provides an opportunity for involvement by neighborhood residents and, and allows residents who best know their area to identify their neighborhoods improvement needs and the actions required for solving those needs.

The Comprehensive plan is VERY clear on how development should be approved thru the following criteria:

  • suitability of the property for the uses allowed under the current zoning ordinance,
  • existing zoning and uses of surrounding properties,
  • existing and future character of the adjacent area,
  • type and extent of positive and/or detrimental impacts to adjacent properties or the community at large,
  • impact of the proposal on public services, utilities, and facilities,
  • benefits to the public health, safety and welfare, compared to any hardship imposed,
  • relative conformance of the proposal to the land use plan and the goals, objectives, and policies; and
  • Consideration of responsible development and growth as well as any other relevant information.

We all want to avoid the same pitfalls and errors that occurred along Burkhardt Road and Green River Road, areas rezoned and developed in piece-meal fashion, where parcels of land were rezoned a few acres at a time. There was little to no care in making sure the developments were planned with some sort of cohesiveness. The University Parkway rezoning is NOT avoiding unplanned urban sprawl. Putting the commercial tract requested is a leap-frog move from the closest other commercial tract (Pearl Drive). The University Parkway rezoning is Burkhardt Road all over again, where parcels of land are divided up willy-nilly a few acres at a time, which would only lead to unplanned development and congestion.

The emphasis on “smart growth” has developed as a response to sprawl, haphazardly planned, low density development interspersed with strip commercial and retail development linked by a vast street and highway system that overemphasizes automobile. Driven largely by poor planning and lack of adherence to our Comprehensive Plan, sprawl has become increasingly prevalent in our community. You would think by now we would be fully aware that sprawl exacerbates traffic problems, diminishes open space and natural resources, and costs the community money.

There are a number of negative impacts associated with sprawl, including increased pollution from longer commutes and heavier auto use; higher costs for taxpayers and businesses to build new infrastructure; and continued erosion of open space and sensitive environmental areas. We are recommending a Master Plan for University Parkway to achieve the following goals: combat sprawl; provide more certainty in determining where new development should or should not occur; make more efficient use of land that has already been developed, including a strong focus on job creation and housing established in urban areas; and establish a legal and procedural framework that will create the desired certainty regarding development and send the right economic signal to investors. A University Master plan would accomplish this.

The inescapable conclusion on the University Parkway rezoning is simple. Growth in a community is never easy. But the bottom line is that any decisions on University Parkway will affect each and every successive generation that follows us. We only have ONE chance to get this correct the first time, and it time that our elected and appointed officials start listening to us! We have been polite and respectful and offered numerous times to assist and join in the planning process. We have offered a number of presentations that show how smart and sustainable growth can be achieved along University Parkway, and yet we have been told that the County Commissioners “are not sure what we want”. What we want is to break free of the cycle of development that is unplanned.

We want to plan for the future along University Parkway, which will preserve and enhance Vanderburgh County’s quality of life, ensure the wise and efficient use of our natural and financial resources, and make government more effective and accountable by reforming our systems of governance, planning, and public finances

We want a plan for University Parkway to promote a prosperous and livable community by making existing communities vital and healthy places for all residents to live, work, obtain a quality education and raise a family.

A plan for University Parkway will provide better housing and transportation opportunities by providing efficient transportation alternatives and a range of housing choices affordable to all residents, without jeopardizing farmland, open space, wildlife habitat and natural resources.

A “master plan” for University Parkway will conserve open spaces, natural resources and the environment by focusing new development in existing communities in areas appropriately planned for growth while protecting air and water quality, conserving wildlife habitat, natural landscapes, floodplains and water recharge areas and providing green space for recreation and other amenities.

We want a “master plan” to protect Vanderburgh County and our agricultural and forest landscapes, which will prevent farm, range and forest lands from sprawl and the pressure to convert land for development.

We only have one chance to get University Parkway right, so we are hopeful the Vanderburgh County Commissioners will heed our voice and undertake the corridor study to develop a master plan for University Parkway.

A Neighbors Letter

I live just North of the 200 acres of property that Gene Pfeiffer is asking the County to be rezoned. My position both in the 2009 rezoning petition filed by Mr. Pfeiffer and in the present rezoning petition is the same. That position has nothing to do with whether Gene Pfeiffer is a good man; he is. Nor whether he has good intentions; he does. I know him to be both an environmentalist and a naturalist who will intentionally do no harm. However, as discussed below, I have the same concerns now as I did in 2009.

But first I have to comment on last Thursday’s Area Plan Committee meeting. I wish more citizens, the entire county for that matter, could have been there. They would have seen Democracy in action. Until the very end, the presentations were done very respectfully and thoughtfully. Our APC Board members are first rate and they are serving our interests very well. I encourage everyone to read the transcript of that meeting when it becomes available online.

However, unfortunately, at the end, it turned very ugly. Stephen Melcher, one of our elected County Commissioners, after all other evidence and argument was concluded, read a letter he said was written by County Commission President Marsha Abell. I have been a trial lawyer for over 30 years and I am not surprised very often; but I was shocked by the letters tone and content. It was a personal and vitriolic attack on the University of Southern Indiana and its representatives.

Mark Rozewski, speaking on behalf of USI, in a very calm and thoughtful manner, merely requested that APC delay their vote for several months so a study facilitated and partially funded by USI could be conducted on the best and highest use and development on the University Parkway. Commissioner Abell’s response was essentially that USI had no business taking part in the discussion, it is their Parkway and since they pay no property taxes to just shut up. The letter also made it very obvious that the County Commission has already taken an active role in the planning and development of Mr.
Pfeiffer’s property.

In her letter Commissioner Abell also stated that she has met with Rusty Fowler, who is an INDOT district representative, on the Parkway/Lloyd expressway overpass issue. That issue, in my view, is the major reason the 2009 rezoning was never approved and why it should not be approved now. As Commissioner Abell apparently knows, that overpass is not capable of handling the vehicular traffic for the USI crowd presently, much less the additional 3000 cars per hour this project will add. She tried to blame the traffic problem on the USI roundabout. In a conversation I had with her several weeks ago I asked her to please just drive out there in the morning and try to get through that intersection travelling South toward the University during school hours and she will find it next to impossible and that it has nothing to do with the roundabout. She apparently has not done that buts wants to use the roundabout as an excuse to pass blame onto USI.

Facts matter and I would request anyone and everyone to just drive out there and see for themselves.

However, that whole discussion is a red herring because Commissioner Abell knows full well the problem with the overpass. That is why she met with Fowler out there in the first place and why she stated there are studies going on regarding design changes on the overpass. One wonders why she has or at whose behest she has now taken such an interest in the West Side of Evansville; but I digress. She told me that both the Morley and Bernardin engineering firms are working on design changes on the overpass but that they didn’t want to share that information. Jim Farny, an engineer with Bernardin, spoke on behalf of Mr. Pfeiffer at the APC meeting but made no mention of the overpass at all. Interesting. Also interesting is that our County Engineer John Stoll, who has repeatedly stated that the overpass is inadequate, was not there at the meeting, not quoted by Commissioner Abell nor asked to write a report to take to the APC.

Abell also told me that there have been ongoing discussions with INDOT about the County taking over maintenance on some local State Roads in return for construction of a new overpass. She also said INDOT has 70 million dollars available for construction of a new overpass. Really? Which roads might the County be taking off of the State’s hands and how much is that going to cost us. And when will we have any public discussion about the overpass?

Another issue which has to be resolved before the rezoning can be approved is the inadequacy of the sewer line serving the area to be rezoned.
Commissioner Abell is well aware of that issue also. But again, no public discussion of exactly what needs to be done, the cost of it nor how it is going to get paid.

Mr. Pfeiffer’s attorney argued at the APC hearing that another reason the rezoning should be approved is because the area to be rezoned is in a TIF District. This is a view shared by Commissioner Abell. It’s like they are saying this is free money which, of course, it is not. A bond has to be purchased and paid for by the entire County. The amount of the bond is based upon speculation about increased tax revenue gained from the project.

Speculation is actually too strong a word. Fallacy is the better word. I want Commissioner Abell to show us a legitimate study that shows that there is a net plus in tax revenues generated on commercial and residential TIF Districts like this. I believe the facts will show that the only bang for any buck spent by a political subdivision is for manufacturing brought to an area. That generates jobs that were not here before. Here we are simply trading an increase in revenue in one area for a decrease elsewhere. Urban rot is not a myth. And that doesn’t even get to the issue of exactly what needs to be done to correct the obvious infrastructure issues the TIF would pay for, how much it would cost and how much would be shared by the developer.

Link

County Commission Letter

County Commission Letter

Letter that was actually read OUT LOUD at the end of remonstrance against rezoning,

REMINDER: County Commission Meeting Tues

REMINDER: County Commission Meeting Tuesday (April 9) at 5 PM, Room 301 of Civic Center

Development and the Future of Our Neighborhoods

It’s a simple philosophy: Put the citizens,not the realtors and developers, of Vanderburgh County first!

  • Communities should be shaped by choice, not chance!
  • We demand elected and appointed leaders who are committed to solving problems, not ignoring or creating them.
  • The neighbors of the proposal along University Parkway near USI are begging for constructive and real change, and they wonder whether the County Commission and Area Plan Commissioners remember the zoning mandates they are supposed to use to render a decision.
  • It is unfortunate that out of character developments like the proposal along University Parkway seem to go unchecked and approved too frequently. Maintaining the integrity of our neighborhoods is something more people should feel passionately about, especially those who have the obligation to vote properly on these developments. There are many folks who care deeply about the direction this community is going, and the neighborhoods are certainly going in some sort of direction. However, the Majestic Place proposal would be a direction that is irresponsible and would harm the integrity and character of the neighborhood and community.
  • Pro-sprawl homebuilders never heard a subdivision they didn’t like. Meanwhile, big money developers, partnering with their own contractors and realtors continue to speculate and build new sprawls of huge buildings and parking lots, while the vacancy rate of commercial buildings is skyrocketing and an innercity is dying with high vacancy rates and increasing crime. Whether there is sufficient water, schools, police, and other resources and/or infrastructure for prudent project approval is inconsequential to them.
  • Do we want Vanderburgh County to become another Marion County? Vanderburgh County is routinely threatened by sprawling development and paved over by unreasonable growth, causing locals to become frustrated and angry with elected and appointed official’s land-use planning and lack of “common sense” judgment. They fear for their property values and quality of life. As a result, voters stay informed, yet frightened and objecting, and all for very good reason.

Conclusion

  • NO rezoning of ANY type until University Parkway and the Highway 62 USI interchange is planned and funded with a detailed time line! We must stand up together for what we believe our neighborhoods and community should be, today and for future generations. We must make our voices heard by the people who vote on the issues, the people we elected to represent our voices in the community.
  • Any “promises” by a developer and their representatives MUST be in DETAILED writings with a “use and development” (UDC) filed with the petition, which means the UDC must be filed before the Area Plan Commission vote
  • We demand a better future for our respective neighborhoods and communities in every area of our county, and the time to start is now, and the University Parkway proposal should be where we ask our County Commissioners and Area Plan Commission members to stand firm on behalf of the neighbors.
  • We want proper development that is planned out in advance based on local, state, and federal standards and does not encourage sprawl and spot-zoning, placed in communities where the infrastructure and services can support it. We want common sense land use planning, not “pie in the sky” promises that seldom materialize in the way some developers always bluster and promise.
  • If we allow Vanderburgh County to be shaped or formed by the extortion of wealthy and powerful developers, we will not end up with the community of our heritage.

Our Community! Our Change! Our Planning! Our Future!

Growing Responsibly On University Parkway

Growing Responsibly On University Parkway (G.R.O.U.P.) was formed to make the statement that “It’s a GROUP effort!”

This page is devoted to discussing the numerous items of interest and discussion that MUST be accomplished before things are done to University Parkway.  It is a place for constructive suggestions and also for neighborly questions and concerns.

In the coming weeks we will be posting a dedicated campaign to convince our elected and appointed officials that any decision on University Parkway WITHOUT advance studies would be a tragic mistake.

The initial list of issues (which we welcome expansion on would be a minimum of the following:

  • Traffic
  • USI Interchange condition
  • TIF finance structure
  • Ingress & egress access to and from University Parkway
  • Pedestrian traffic
  • “Walkability”
  • Government services (police/fire/EMS)
  • Noise pollution
  • “carbon footprint”
  • Secondary roads
  • Engineering study never done
  • Adoption of roads newly built
  • Sidewalks
  • Upscale – no box stores
  • Cannibalizing existing businesses
  • Specific lot uses and restrictions
  • Utilities
  • Lighting
  • Sewer and water
  • Flood issues