WARSAW — A proposed encroachment agreement met with opposition Monday evening, Aug. 1, at the Warsaw Common Council meeting. The opposition was expressed by two council members and three citizens/business owners. The agreement will be presented Friday, Aug. 5, at the Warsaw Board of Works meeting.
A proposal to revitalize underutilized alleys in the city was presented at the June 20 common council meeting by Jeremy Skinner, city planner, and David Gustafson, owner of Urban Retrend.
Monday evening, Warsaw Councilwoman Cindy Dobbins presented results of a survey conducted by the Warsaw Community Development Corp. Only council members were given copies and then encouraged to review the results and comments. Alignment with the council’s strategic planning discussion was noted. A 30-minute discussion then ensued.
Jerry Frush and Ron Shoemaker voiced opposition to such a request. Frush questioned if this was giving space to somebody without rent or a lease. Additionally he commented while he had no problem closing an alley for one evening, he was not sure about closing it a whole summer. “I’m not sure. I’ve talked to a few people who are not in favor of that. They don’t think it should be done.” Shoemaker also voiced his disapproval to closing the alley to vehicle traffic. The councilmen also expressed disapproval it was a benefit to a business.
Mayor Joe Thallemer stated there has been discussion since the 2012 Ball State charrette, with endorsement of the WCDC. “The idea here is to do a pilot project, identified in the charrette,” said Thallemer. He added the council has talked a lot about keeping downtown vital and creating foot traffic. “The encroachment agreement gives us opportunity to try something we haven’t tried in the community before.”
Jeremy Skinner, city planner, stated he feels the impact will be greater than the disruption or disturbance. “It is the impact we’re looking for and this is an opportunity to create an impact.”
It was stated the council was not debating or considering the agreement at this time, it was just brought up as a matter of information.
Others Speak Out
Jerry Opperud, a downtown resident for more than 45 years; Robbin Watters, owner of Rex’s Rendezvous and Jon Goon, owner of Lake Area Promotional Specialties, also spoke up.
Opperud spoke negatively about the individual making the request, stating he could be a bad actor and does not live by his promises. Opperud stated he has been confronted by the individual and the patrons of the business. He added he would continue walking his beat to keep the peace, law and order and sanity of others from the people of the night life.
Watters noted he is from the forgotten block in Warsaw. Unlike other areas around the downtown, there are no trees or flowers and an alley that is in disrepair and hazardous.
Goon expressed the city’s thinking of vitalizing the downtown is way off base as it only concentrates on Center and Buffalo streets, not the rest of the downtown. He stated he did not think the council even knew where his business was located and it’s been around for a long time.
Thallemer reiterated several times the restrictions placed in the encroachment agreement, including the city could cancel the agreement at any time. He encouraged individuals to attend the meeting Friday to learn more.