$1 leases bring support and worries from Jeffersonville leaders - WDRB 41 Louisville News

$1 leases bring support and worries from Jeffersonville leaders

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JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind.  (WDRB) -- After spending more than $2 million on it, Jeffersonville could now rent city property for a dollar -- if you're the right tenant.

City leaders are arguing over whether to sell the property once intended for a canal.

One possibility is leasing a former used car lot to a fire truck museum -- for a buck a year.

But a question still to be answered is this:  should the property bring many more bucks to the city?

"We forced businesses to leave. We forced people to leave their homes for the better good of Jeffersonville. So what's the better good of Jeffersonville?" asked city councilman Ed Zastawny.

He believes Jeffersonville should explore selling, for profit, property that includes a former body shop, the former used car place, a rundown but historic home and several vacant lots.

The city bought them for more than $2 million for the canal project that Mayor Mike Moore canceled a year ago.  He "ripped up" papers describing it in a January 2012 news conference.  Zastawny, councilman Mike Smith and two city redevelopment commissioners appointed by the council believe the property should bring economic gain, especially through property taxes.

"That means having a use for the property that's going to increase economic activity, increase assessed values, increase jobs and not give these properties away, especially the prime locations," Zastawny said.

"We've got an opportunity here that we need to move forward," Smith said. He mentioned the completion of the Jeffersonville ramp to the Big Four pedestrian bridge and the second Kennedy bridge as projects that could bring commercial interest to the area, between Spring and Michigan Streets.

The city, through the redevelopment commission, is proposing to lease two buildings, including the former home, to the Clark County Museum for a dollar a year for as long as 50 years.  It's also looking to offer similar, but two- or three-year leases for the fire truck museum and an arts center on the largest parcels, commission president Monty Snelling said.

Those uses are exempt from property taxes.

"Parts of town may start to grow with shopping malls. Another part of town may start to grow with the Amazon building. This end of town is set up perfectly for an art/cultural district," Mayor Mike Moore said.

"Sometimes the city does things and offers things that may not bring in direct dollars, but indirectly the dollars do come in."

Moore calls it a "facelift" for the area, which he noted had lost long-time businesses even before the canal property purchases.

WDRB's Chris Turner asked, "Do you see that as the best use, long-term, for these properties?"

Moore responded, "I do. I do. I think it's something to really be proud of. Hey, if Channel 41 is here today talking about it. That's the type of thing that stirs, this stirs excitement."

The city still will need to bury huge underground water pipes in the area in place of the canal project.

Legal questions on leases to non-profit groups and the city's liability as a landlord are still to be answered, perhaps in a redevelopment commission meeting later this month.

The commission is looking to lease a restaurant in the canal property area.  That arrangement should resemble more of a commercial business lease, Moore and redevelopment director Rob Waiz said.

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