Abraham, Bray Against City Hotel Ordinances
By West Kentucky Star Staff
PADUCAH - Two candidates for mayor of Paducah have expressed disapproval with ordinances up for final approval at Tuesday's City Commission meeting.

Richard Abraham says he is against a city ordinance introduced July 28 that would extend the right of first refusal for the sale of property adjacent to a local hotel. The item is on the agenda for final approval at Tuesday's meeting. 

Abraham shared his opinions in a statement written on Thursday. This followed an open letter written to city leaders Wednesday by McCracken County Judge-Executive Craig Clymer that called the extension a "bad deal."

Abraham said he opposes extending the agreement with the owners of the Holiday Inn Paducah Riverfront, which would give them two additional years to purchase property next door, where a health care facility once stood. The extension would also allow the hotel's owners to prevent the potential sale of the land by the city, and Abraham believes that any property that could potentially be used as another hotel development site should be under the city's control.

Abraham said that Clymer's comments led him to believe, "I am not the only one thinking that this ‘extension’ of the ROFR, is specifically focused on taking that old nursing home site away from the city for discussion of placement of Weyland Ventures hotel."

He said a consultant hired by the city gave seven possible locations for a downtown hotel, not just the "city block" site involving Weyland Ventures, which is another ordinance being considered for final approval at Tuesday's meeting. Abraham said city leaders must listen to the concerns of their constituents about this deal, and a new hotel at any other site in that area would benefit everyone, while not altering the "city block" area, which is used for many other activities and for parking. 
George Bray, who is also running for mayor, said at the July 28 meeting that he is against the development agreement with Weyland Ventures, due to the uncertainty of the current pandemic and how it could affect the TIF district. He also cited unknown potential remediation costs, lack of competition by potentially interested local developers, and several other details in the deal that should be revisited. 

Bray said, "Let's slow down and consider that we are in the driver's seat, and this is the most valuable piece of property that we have in the city.  I know Weyland is a fine development firm, and if this project is attractive they will stay interested."

At the July 28 meeting, Bray and Abraham both pointed out that three-out-of-four of the commissioners that will vote on the ordinance will not be in office next year, and both men indicated there is no need to approve the deal immediately, when future city leaders will be dealing with the details during their terms. 

Here is Abraham's complete statement:

This past week, the city administration received a much welcomed email from our sitting County Judge Executive. “ I” certainly welcomed his experienced insight and reflections.  His email echoed some of the very same concerns that I have been researching, regarding our handling of the TIF district’s options that are available to us.
In my recent research, I have been reminded of the city’s  original intentions regarding a downtown Hotel.  To my understanding, we entered into a “preliminary development agreement”, with Weyland Ventures, a few years ago, for the old nursing home site, which was originally purchased with the idea of placing a hotel in that particular spot, so as to enhance the convention center’s ability to get conventions.  The door was opened for the ‘parking lot’ parcel, later, and it perhaps was part of a development agreement. I am not positive on this ,though.
 At this point, I say ‘perhaps was part of a development agreement” because I, personally, do not always get as much specific information, as some others do. Earlier, in February, I was addressing the commission, regarding a “protocol’ they were attempting to put in place, that would limit, severely, a commissioners contact with employees, among other restrictions (I have had numerous employees verify to me that under two of our city managers, they have been forbidden from speaking to me and if they did, then they were threatened with repercussions if they did not immediately notify the city manager of my questions.).
 At that time, with my great suspicion that I do not always get the same information that other board members do, I notified our board that I would not support any “restrictions” of any commissioner’s  actions or words and that this administration made me feel as if it is full of shadows and half information.  I stated that if a Board member  followed that suggested ‘protocol’ , they were seeking to vote on, that it would cause a member of the Board of Commissioners to violate their oaths taken, especially since we were not elected as a block but as individuals.  In fact, I am in possession of the email response from the chair of our board that states that “ don’t get the phone calls because you refuse to work with the team.You are disrespectful and pompous.  You are not willing to be a team player….For you to turn around and criticize ‘this administration’ for which you are part of, shows me that you are disconnected….”  .
 Long story short, the “Protocol” that the city manager and mayor wanted to bring, to be voted on, was dropped.  Since I was the only one who refused to follow it, and then it was dropped, it seemed to verify that I was the one they were seeking to control.
Regardless, There are two ordinances up for vote for our next commission meeting.  I totally agree with the Fiscal Court Judge’s assessments, regarding the ROFR (right of first refusal).  My concerns were piqued when realizing that I am not the only one thinking that this ‘extension’ of the ROFR, is specifically focused on taking that old nursing home site, away from the city for discussion of placement of Weyland Ventures hotel.
 I am for progress.  I do want to see downtown businesses thrive. Having a Hotel placed in any of the 7 other sites, identified by our out of town consultant, would be very interesting to discuss.  But just because a study was done by an ‘’out of town’ consultant, that states that the gazebo/parking lot area would be a great place for a hotel, DOES NOT mean that is what we, as a municipal are desirous of. That is only a suggestion.  We, as a Board,  are to listen to our constituents and their concerns.  That piece of property is a catalyst for many of our events, as well as providing parking, when events are not happening.  All downtown businesses will benefit from any Hotel, in the TIF area.  The only difference that I could perhaps imagine are particular property values rising tremendously, that are closest to a new hotel.  But  we must not “kill the golden goose” by altering the ‘city block area’ to an unfamiliar unwelcome structure.

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Published 11:54 AM, Saturday Aug. 08, 2020
Updated 05:05 AM, Monday Aug. 10, 2020



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