No action by Council on College Hill

Julie Knapp

Protesters on both sides of the College Hill renovation project gathered outside of the City Council chambers last Tuesday in hopes of a victory. However, neither side received the answer they were looking for, as the Topeka City Council once again deferred action until this Tuesday.

“If we wait a week, it could be a win-win situation between the developers and business owners,” said John Alcala, councilman for District 2.

Specifically at issue is the contract between the city and developer. If passed, the city would use its powers of eminent domain to acquire properties of Jerry’s Bike Shop, 1415 S.W. Lane, and Oscar’s Bar, 1416 S.W. 15th St.

The funding measures in this contract were at issue, and Bill Haynes and Alcala decided it would be best to go into executive session to identify funding sources for the acquisition of the property.

In the executive session, it was decided that instead of costing $4 million like Clark Duffy, councilman for District 6, expected, the acquisition of 1415 S.W. Lane and 1416 S.W. 15th St. for economic development purposes will cost $500,000. This money will be provided by the developer, Washburn Lane Parkway Renovations, LLC.

“The developer must supply the city with a financial guarantee via a letter of credit to guarantee our investment in the project,” said Brenden Long, Topeka’s city attorney.

Council members talked at length about the legalities of the project and the funding for it at last Tuesday’s meeting, but did not allow the public to speak on the matter until the public comment section of the meeting.

As of Saturday, a deal had not been reached betwen Jerry Morgan, owner of Jerry’s Bike Shop, and the developers. Morgan and all 40 property owners in the College Hill area will have a chance to meet with the City Council and the developers at a special 5:30 p.m. meeting before next Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

At the regular City Council meeting next Tuesday, the current agreement between the city and developer will be taken into consideration, as well as an ordinance that approves the funding for the project.

The Washburn Student Government Association is getting involved in next week’s Council meeting, and is trying to gather students to walk with them down to the College Hill area.

At 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, those interested can meet WSGA at the waterfall located on the corner of 17th and Washburn. Each walker will receive a green shirt, and then they will walk to 12th and Lane by the mural to meet up with the College Hill residents.

The protesters will then be taking a trolley to the City Council meeting, and people who are interested in speaking can sign up with the City Council office on Monday.

Faith Griffin of the Review also contributed