Questions, answers and looking ahead at Black Diamond and YarrowBay master planned developments
By DENNIS BOX
Covington Reporter Editor
October 6, 2011 · Updated 9:43 PM
The councillors recused themselves from the hearing after YarrowBay’s attorney, Nancy Rogers, submitted emails between Goodwin, Saas and opponents of the development. Rogers’ letter to the council members during the appearance of fairness portion of hearing stated the emails constituted ex-parte contact.
Goodwin made a statement at the hearing the emails to Bob Edelman were concerning vesting and were not about the development hearing. The councillor stated in his view the communication did not involve ex-parte contact.
Saas stated at the meeting, “Do I regret what I have done? Not one bit.... Would I do things differently in retrospect? I can say yes and no.”
Rogers’ letter stated Goodwin and Saas should recuse themselves. Also council women Leih Mulvihill and Kristine Hanson should recuse themselves because own property near the development.
Once all four recuse themselves, the letter noted all could return because of the doctrine of necessity, or the need for a quorum to make a decision on the agreements.
“In this way, YarrowBay and community member against community member attacks can be avoided, the city’s fiscal interests will be protected, and the full five-member City Council can sit together with the community, to review The Villages and Lawson Hills Development Agreements,” Rogers wrote in the letter.
Hanson and Mulvihill returned to the hearing Sept. 29 creating a quorum with Councilman Bill Boston allowing the process to move forward.
Goodwin said at the Sept. 26 hearing he did not see the email as “legitimate” reasons for recusal and he stated he would have to hire an attorney to defend himself and he was not willing to take the financial risk.
During an interview Sept. 29, Goodwin said he agreed the development agreement hearings are a quasi-judicial process, but he again emphasized his belief there was no ex-parte contact in his view.
“Anything I have been doing I’ve been straight up with YarrowBay,” Goodwin said. “My objective was to be open.”
Goodwin said his plan was to bring the opposing sides together and he pointed to an attempt to put a meeting together between the citizens technical committee and YarrowBay.
“To YarrowBay’s credit they agreed to that,” Goodwin said. “Unfortunately the (citizens technical) committee established a bunch of preconditions which killed it. That was a poor decision on their part.”
According to Goodwin he is not anti-development.
“Black Diamond needs this development,” he said. “It is appropriate.”
Goodwin said the “appropriate checks and balances need to be in place.... We need to make sure the citizens don’t pay for it.”
The councillor said he did not recuse himself for political reasons or because he is trying seeking high office.
“It is important to have principles and live by those principles,” Goodwin said. “And I’m not taking my ball and going home. I am even more committed.”
Megan Nelson, director of legal affairs for YarrowBay Holdings, wrote in an email, ““The objections regarding ex-parte contacts in YarrowBay’s letter were based on a totality of the communications. Under the appearance of fairness doctrine, the question to be asked is whether a disinterested third party observer would think from reading the communications that bias exists. We believe the answer to that question is yes. As a result, our letter was about protecting the city and the planned communities from a potential risk of future challenges. We also identified a solution that would have allowed all members to participate in the process.”
The development agreement hearings are scheduled to continue Friday and Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Black Diamond Elementary School gymnasium, 25314 Baker Street.
Goodwin said he and Saas have scheduled a meeting for the public at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16 at the Black Diamond Community Center, 31605 3rd Ave.
He said people can come and ask questions concerning the recusals “and set a strategy for moving forward.”
Another issue Goodwin will address at the meeting is a comprehensive plan amendment regarding residential density requirements.
The councillor considers this an critical issue for the future of the city.
In a letter to Steve Pilcher, community development director for Black Diamond, Goodwin recommends, “Delete the requirements that an MPD have any residential density at all” and “For those developments that include residences, change the minimum residential density required from 4 dwelling units per gross acre to 4 per net residential acre.”.
The issue will be going before the Planning Commission and there will be a public hearing regarding the proposed comprehensive plan amendment at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 in City Council chambers.
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