With intentions of showing a united front, the Franklin County Fiscal Court followed in the footsteps of elected city leaders by approving the first reading of a resolution to dissolve the Capital Plaza redevelopment project memorandum of agreement with the state Thursday evening.
Unanimously giving its consent to terminate the MOA, which included only the 6.4 acres where the Frankfort Convention Center formerly sat known as Parcel B, the court also gave its blessing on the state Finance and Administration Cabinet’s plan to offer up 11.8 acres of prime downtown property — which now includes the downtown YMCA, a parking garage and the land beneath the Capital Plaza Hotel — to private developers.
County Attorney Rick Sparks and City Manager Keith Parker fielded numerous questions, including a handful from District 1 Magistrate Sherry Sebastian, who sought the meaning of a clause that states, “Over time it has become evident that the MOA did not provide an efficient and effective process for disposition of Parcel B in a timely manner.”
“The state has recognized that as this developed there was a better way to do it,” Sparks explained, adding that the language in the clause reflected correspondence among state officials who agreed that it wasn’t working out.
During a meeting that was primarily dedicated to budgetary discussions, Parker touted the benefits of having the property back on the local tax rolls.
“Think about your county taxes involved. You’ll now be collecting taxes on the improvement of those properties,” he said, saying he takes Finance and Administration Cabinet Sec. William Landrum at his word that he wants he to get the 11-plus acres on the tax rolls by the end of the year. “It would be huge and help your bottom line.”
Sebastian asked if there was any way for the county to add a statement to the resolution that stipulates the property not be involved in a Public-Private Partnership (P3) to which Sparks responded that neither the city or county could bind the state in any way.
“I’ll tell you this, the state fought like bloody hell to make sure this P3 was permitted,” he said. “They like it. They know it and they are familiar with it.”
Parker stressed the importance of the city and county working together with the state to entice what he called the big-money out-of-town investors who may be interested in the prime real estate in a federal Opportunity Zone.
“If they come in, read the paper and see the city and county argue over getting out of this and a lot of controversy, they’re just going to flip to the next page because there are other opportunities out there,” the city manager told magistrates.
Parker also said that the Downtown Master Plan Committee and city planning staff will assist the Finance and Administration Cabinet with the submission of a Request For Proposal (RFP) for the project. Landrum plans to reference both the master plan and an urban mixture zoning district in the RFP, he added.
“The Downtown Master Plan showed what the community wants, but I don't think it is a recipe. I think it’s a guide,” Parker said.
At Wednesday’s meeting of the Capital Plaza Community Engagement Committee — which will be dissolved along with the Parcel B MOA after the city and county hold second readings of the resolution — members discussed the creation of a Downtown Master Plan Committee to continue the progress of the plan’s implementation.
Sebastian noted that a county representative should be included in conversations with the Downtown Master Plan Committee and city planning staff.
“I think it is critical to keep everyone involved appraised of the process,” she said.
Parker said he would make the request but was unsure whether a county representative would be included as a voting member or in an advisory role.
He also provided a timeframe.
“I think this property could be in private hands by the end of the year — September or October,” Parker said.