Meltdown at Plan Commission

And now this from the Just When You Thought it Couldn't Get Weirder Dept. The regularly-scheduled meeting of the Plan Commission last night (May 14), with about 30 community residents, ended in a fiasco. The Commission is currently at only 8 members due to the resignation of Sara McMurray. Chairman Woods was also absent (after having given a pro-Tower pitch at P&D last Wednesday) as the Commission moved into ch. 8 of the Downtown Plan, really the most important part, since it concerns the real zoning recommendations, and the consultants' implementation of their recommended "form-based code" cap-and-bonus system. After a recap of the recommendations, the commissioners started slogging through some of the details.

At approximately 9:15, however, the tenor changed. Given the apparent mandate from the Council to give some guidance on the Tower, four commissioners (Nyden, Burrus, Schuldenfrei, and Freeman), including the three who authored a minority report objecting to the 4-3 vote last winter to recommend approval of the project, moved (after voting to limit debate to five minutes) to change the Lakota/Duncan draft plan by redesignating the Fountain Square block as regular Core rather than the "supertall" status it (and only it) enjoyed under the draft plan. I.e., a maximum of 27 stories.

Without the votes to stop it, and debate already having been limited by a prior 4-3 vote, the 3 commissioners apparently in favor of the Tower (Opdycke, Galloway, and Staley), after some angry words, got up and walked out, leaving the Commission without a quorum, so that the vote could not proceed.

Observers and press present could not recall anything like that in City history. Recall that the Tower got approved by an identical 4-3 vote with a short Commission; why is what's good for the goose not good for the gander? The Council is capable of taking a split vote by a short Commission for what it's worth.

There appear to be some strong emotions at work, with some commissioners feeling they've been run over roughshod, bullied, and/or disrespected. It's not a good formula. Perhaps now that everyone's had a taste of it, they can all get back to business. There are a lot of good minds on the Commission and such drama doesn't showcase their talents to best effect. I volunteer to take them all out for milkshakes somewhere.