The Capital Plaza redevelopment recommendations sent off for state approval did not mirror the documents the city and county approved last month.
A Nov. 30 letter from former Frankfort City Manager Cindy Steinhauser, who acted for about a year as the primary liaison between local and state officials in the redevelopment process, contained an attached document with four more paragraphs of information than what the Frankfort City Commission and Franklin County Fiscal Court approved in November, acting co-city managers Keith Parker and Laura Ross told The State Journal.
When city staff discovered the discrepancy, officials decided they would have to backtrack and send Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet Secretary William Landrum the exact document of preliminary redevelopment recommendations the two local bodies approved.
Ross said her main concern was not with the content itself but rather the fact that Landrum received a document that was not identical to what the city and county approved.
The additional content in the document Steinhauser sent to Landrum, however, was language that reflected what Frankfort’s new downtown master plan stated, Ross said.
“There’s nothing new or surprising in the document that Cindy sent versus what they approved,” Ross said.
Ross said the additions to the document were made after the city and county approved it.
As part of the city and county’s memorandum of understanding with the Finance Cabinet, the process called for approval of the Capital Plaza redevelopment’s preliminary recommendations first by the Frankfort City Commission and Franklin County Fiscal Court before going to Landrum for his approval. Last month, the city and county both approved the master plan as well as the Parcel B redevelopment recommendations, although the county did so by a 5-2 vote in both instances.
Both Parker and Ross said they do not foresee the confusion with the recommendations having any negative impact on the project’s timeline. That timeline anticipates awarding the right to develop Parcel B to a private developer and contracting on a final project with the state by September.
“It’s not a big deal and we are going to relay that to Secretary Landrum and all of the other parties,” Parker said. “We just felt it needed to be corrected so the legislative bodies would not feel that their recommendations weren’t presented correctly.”
Additionally, Ross and Parker pointed out that the language under the section labeled “Recommendation” was identical in both documents. That portion lays out a plan to redevelop 6.4 acres of former Capital Plaza land known as Parcel B with a mixed-use development, with the ground floor designated for retail businesses and upper floors made up of residential units. Parcel B formerly contained the Frankfort Convention Center and Fountain Place Shops, which were both demolished by the state.
Steinhauser, who is now the community development director for the City of Rochester, Minnesota, told The State Journal that what she added to the document was only meant to be helpful, contextual information to support the actual recommendation approved by local leaders.
“The correspondence sent to the secretary (of the Finance Cabinet) included the officially adopted recommendation,” Steinhauser said. “It also included supplemental background information to give context to the recommendation.”
Steinhauser added that she did not just add that information on her own volition and had consulted with other members of the group tasked with forming the recommendations, the Capital Plaza Development Advisory Committee.
In a formal letter sent Friday afternoon to inform Landrum of the circumstances, Parker said that he had attached the “appropriate Preliminary Recommendation in its original format” while providing Steinhauser’s additional text as a separate document.
“Let me reiterate that this is just a clarification and what Mrs. Steinhauser sent you is very relevant to the discussion of the redevelopment of Parcel B and it was only ‘packaged’ incorrectly,” Parker says in his letter to Landrum.
Parker then states he agrees with and would work to implement what Steinhauser outlined in the additional text, which included a narrative for development, additional detail about the mixed-use retail and residential redevelopment plan and information regarding proposed zoning guidelines.
Mayor Bill May was the first to notify Landrum of the situation with a phone call on Thursday. May told The State Journal he was concerned when he heard that a public document had been altered.
“It was a complete surprise to learn from our acting city managers that the former city manager had made changes to the documents that were sent to Secretary Landrum,” May said. “I immediately called Secretary Landrum and let him know that the city was going to send a letter explaining we needed to give an updated letter to Secretary Landrum.”
Like Parker and Ross, however, May said he did not foresee any delay in the timeline.
Franklin County Judge-Executive Huston Wells said he had just been informed of the situation, but from his understanding the issue had been resolved.
“I believe it turned out not to be as big a deal as we thought it might be,” Wells said.