11/06/2019 APC

West Lafayette Director of Development Erik Carlson and Area Plan Commission Assistant Director Ryan O’Gara explain the intentions of expanding Tommy Johnston Neighborhood Park to the APC at a public hearing Wednesday evening.

Uncertain language regarding park expansion in the West Lafayette Downtown Plan may cast a “cloud” over adjacent properties, a West Lafayette resident claimed at Wednesday evening’s Tippecanoe County Area Planning Committee meeting.

The current version of the downtown plan proposes Tommy Johnston Neighborhood Park to be expanded into three adjacent lots to increase the green space in the area — something the current owners of the lots don’t see eye-to-eye with.

Don Teeder, who owns two of the three lots adjacent to the park, said the current language of the plan throws the fate of the three lots into the air.

“So in essence, at this juncture, there is an idea,” Teeder said to the committee during Wednesday’s public hearing. “And they say, ‘Well, maybe we want to develop all three lots. Maybe we don’t want to develop any of them. Maybe we just want to develop one of them.’ But in any case, that puts a cloud over those three lots.”

The disputed section of the document is as follows.

“As a development alternative, should the city elect to not acquire the entire block for park expansion, this plan can also support the partial expansion of the park as part of a negotiated planned development. In this development scenario, a western portion of the block could develop under the Downtown Village designation and either dedicate a part of its acreage to the expansion of the park or develop a landscaped and hardscaped open space with a public access easement over it designed to seamlessly transition to the public park space.”

Teeder claimed the “cloud” over the three properties would block future developments in the area due to the wording of the plan.

“You go to city council in West Lafayette and say, ‘Hey here’s a PD, we want to do this,’” Teeder said. “But they’re going to show (the West Lafayette Downtown Plan) and say, ‘No, you can’t do that because this is designated for park.’”

Teeder said his main concern was a lack of certainty behind the plan.

“Parks. I love them, they’re great,” he said. “If you want to put a park there, then let’s go ahead and do it. But what I’m asking is, don’t put a cloud on this.”

Ryan O’Gara, an assistant director at the APC, told the committee that projects submitted to the West Lafayette city council would be allowed to go through as long as it fits the “Downtown Village standard” outlined in the future land use plan. O’Gara told the commission the city of West Lafayette hoped it could have the land outright or have a public access easement, similar to the one under Campus Edge on Pierce.

“There’s a little corner park-let across the street from (Tommy Johnston Park) that actually has a public access easement over it,” O’Gara said, referring to the overhang on the northeast corner of the Wood and Pierce Street intersection. “The public actually is allowed to congregate there, provided they behave themselves. But it was a way to try to build in a little open space in these urban environments.”

Tommy Johnston Park and the three adjacent lots, known as Block 27 in the planning document, is not the only block slated for recreational use with current tenants. Block 6, the triangle enclosed by Vine Street, Wiggins Street and Northwestern Avenue, currently has three houses but is proposed by the West Lafayette Downtown Plan document to be a park honoring the fire station across the street.

“The overall aim for why the expansions of Block 27, to expand Tommy Johnston Park, as you’ve heard from other commenters that there is a lack of green space in the area,” West Lafayette Director of Development Erik Carlson said. “We know that with the dense population that has already occurred on State Street, and others that are planned in that area, we need to expand green space. We need to have more amenities for people in the community, for people that are living in that direct area, which actually ending up in itself becomes an increase to the property value at the surrounding area.”

A motion to revise the language regarding the future land use plan of Block 27 and discuss the issue further a later meeting was passed prior to adjournment.

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