Editorial/Op

Answer Raises Questions: Why Public Records Access Matters

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CENTRAL FIRST BLUE b    After reading the email (see page 1) from Central’s expert planning and zoning attorney Mark Balkin to Mayor Shelton, I’m wondering how anyone involved in the approval of the Shoe Creek TND, with 10,000 square feet of commercial space, 447 houses, and 250 apartments, could read that email and still support the project as proposed. There certainly must be a better explanation.
    In a nutshell, way back in April, Central’s attorney and zoning expert Mr. Balkin indicates that the additional traffic of the Shoe Creek TND proposed a problem.  Balkin stated that the development would require more than a couple of entrances onto Sullivan Road and the one through Morgan Place (which the council has since prohibited).  His email calls for an extension of Wax Road to Hooper Road to handle the TND traffic. However, the project was approved with the only entrances leading to a short stretch of Sullivan Road. 
    I won’t tell you I know everything else that may have factored into apparently disregarding the advice of the city’s own zoning expert.  I do know that Balkin’s email was sent to Mayor Shelton and Planning and Zoning Director Woodrow Muhammad.  I don’t know whether it was ever shared with the Central’s city council members.
    I also must confess that our elected officials and I are not real chummy lately, so until better explanations surface I’m left with these questions:
    Why would the city council vote to prevent traffic through Sagebrush Avenue if they knew of Mr. Balkin’s email advising that Central’s streets could not effectively handle the traffic of this TND even WITH the Sagebrush connection?
    Why did Central’s Planning and Zoning Director Woodrow Muhammad, at Mayor Shelton’s request, ask EBR traffic engineers to approve the Shoe Creek traffic study, telling them that the Sagebrush Avenue connection “has not been eliminated,” after receiving Balkin’s email which all but mandated a direct connection to Hooper Road?
    Why would Central’s P&Z Director prepare a detailed seven-page staff report on the proposed TND, designed to give guidance to the city council for their vote on the matter, and fail to mention the negative traffic comments in the email from Central’s expert zoning attorney?
    Had Central’s city council members even seen this email when they voted to approve the TND in the face of overwhelming public opposition to the project?
    How could any public official have such an important public record in their possession, in the face of so many questions by citizens, on the largest development in the history of the city, and not share that information with the people of Central until forced to do so by a court decision?  
    What did Central’s zoning expert think of the traffic impact of the proposed TND?  I believe the email makes that clear, but the answer raises more questions.  Answers to these questions would be Good News for a Great City.

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