JUST IN: City of Evansville Parking For Rathbone Revisited


Councilman Weaver,

The Site Review Committee met with the owner/developer in March of 2018 that our office had set up to help introduce the project, the ownership team, and the agencies that were involved in the permitting process.  At that time, the owner described the project and what their proposed uses were for the building.  Based on the information received, each agency laid out what items would be expected to be presented at the Site Review meeting for approval.  In addition, some of the main items discussed where the parking requirements, variances that could be requested, sewer/water/grease trap items, redevelopment approval, etc.  

All agencies involved in the process were there to help this project through the necessary requirements along with providing detailed information from each agency.  On October 29, 2018, 7 months later, the first set of plans were submitted for review by the Site Review Committee, i.e. Phase 1 of the project.  During a walkthrough by the Building Commission, Fire Department, and the Area Plan Commission, it was discovered that the owner had already done some extensive work without having any permits.  Even though this activity had happened, the Site Review Committee moved forward to try and keep this project on track.  

On November 7, 2018, an Improvement Location Permit was issued for the project so that it could continue to move forward.  At that time, several items were discussed with the owner including parking requirements for future Phases along with items required by the Evansville Water & Sewer Utility since the facility did not have easements for the sanitary sewer system.  Since that time multiple sets of plans along with multiple different scenarios have been presented to the agencies that sit on Site Review.  

On February 25, 2019, Phase 2 of the project was submitted for Site Review Approval.  During the time between Phase 1 and Phase 2, a variance request was approved for parking on the project which would relax the number of required parking spaces from 122 to 86, which allowed for additional units to go in along with 4 hotel units and office space.  Based on the plans that were provided, which showed an additional parking lot to be built to meet the variance approval, a permit was issued on February 28, 2019.  The existing parking lot that is currently in place has a total of 71 parking spaces.  

Based on the variance that the owner requested and showed on the plan that was provided and approved by the BZA and the Site Review Committee, the additional parking lot would provide the 86 spaces required.  To date, that parking lot has yet to be built and has been shown on several different locations on the site. In addition, the shared parking agreement with Culver school that was recommended by the City government to help the owner in their future plans has yet to be provided for approval.  By no means has any agency tried to slow this project down, and in fact, each agency has tried to help nail down a moving target.

To date, the Area Plan Commission has approved each request for a Certificate of Occupancy after the proper information has been submitted.  If you would like to discuss this project in more detail, I would be happy to meet and pull all the information on the project along with the multiple sets of plans that we have had to work with.

Additionally, since I have become the Area Plan Commission Director, the parking requirements in the downtown business district have been eliminated for all commercial developments and the residential component has been greatly reduced by the addition of the ability to share parking or to be within 300’ feet of a public parking area.  The Arts Overlay Zone, Jacobsville Overlay Zone, and West Franklin Street Overlay Zones have been created, have helped reduce parking requirements and have been completed through a properly vetted process by the entire community.  Pushed for the last several years, we have finally received funds this year by the County and City Councils to hire a consultant to update our antiquated codes.  I could not agree more that this review has needed to occur.  We look forward to working with everyone through this process, which should include our entire community since it will affect everyone!

Thank You,

Ronald S. London, P.E., CFM Executive Director

Broker, Attorney, Investor, Entrepreneur OF THE RAthborne THAT WE POSTED SEVERAL DAYS AGO.

Developer of Rathbone Frustrated With APC’s Antiquated And Bloated Bureaucracy
Subject: Rathbone
Good morning. 
 I left a voicemail with your secretary on Friday (26 July 2019) afternoon and wanted to follow up with you via email.
To date I have kept every promise I have made to the City.
I have taken a historic landmark that was previously derelict, purchased it for around $2M from a local bank and invested another approximately $2M to successfully restore it to its former grandeur as promised.  Over 90 percent of the approximately $2M renovation budget utilized services provided by local construction, architectural, engineering and other businesses as promised.
Despite this am continuing to struggle to open-up the newly renovated units at the Rathbone, due to continuously needing to re-verify with APC that sufficient parking spaces are available.  This despite APC’s 31 May 2019 concurrence at the site review, wherein they acknowledged that the site had sufficient parking to open the majority of the units in the original building.
I just need 22 more Certificates of Occupancy to complete the Rathbone’s leasing requirements.  Given my experience to date, I am anticipating having to fight for every inch of ground; and expend even more time and capital to obtain these remaining certificates.
Frankly, there are too many City review boards and, those that occur, do not generate clear understanding of the requirements.  The resulting decisions from these hearings are not clearly recorded and/or certified by APC so all parties have a clear understanding of the requirements.  Trying to lock down what APC exactly requires has been a confusing, bureaucratic and cumbersome process.  This entire experience has added unnecessary cost and time delays to my project, which inhibit the downtown redevelopment efforts.  As I previously said, it also wastes taxpayer money by having numerous unproductive APC meetings that resolve little and trigger numerous/excessive City inspections.
The time and effort associated with this is ridiculous.  Especially in light of the fact that officials have acknowledged that the parking code is out of date and is currently being updated.  As my existing parking lot at the Rathbone sits over half empty, I struggle to get permission to market and lease up vacant units.  Despite the fact that I have; 1) purchased the adjacent lot, 2) received a change of use to use it as a parking lot, and 3) began the process of clearing this new lot to use as overflow parking.  I only have about 20 of our 57 units rented.  It is extremely unlikely that I will be at full occupancy before I can open the overflow parking, which should be done by the end of September 2019 (at the latest).  By some miracle, even if my team achieved full lease-up, the reality is that over half of my tenants (even the 2 bed units) will only have one car.  So right now, I have over 70 parking spaces for about 15 cars, with an additional 70 plus parking spaces being added in the next 30-60 days, but I am still having to beg APC to open up my vacant units because I don’t have sufficient parking!  This does not even include the overflow parking arrangement I have secured with Culver school; that I had modified and recorded to meet APC’s requirements.
There is no reason I should not be able to open up all of my units for lease so long as I keep our promise to open up the additional parking.  So far we’ve kept every promise we’ve made.  Yet, despite this fact, I am still being penalized continuously, while neighboring apartment complexes sit in states of vast disrepair to include cracked parking lots and poor signage.  I am unsure why the City’s enforcement is so arbitrarily placed upon those who are trying to do good for the community while absent for others.  I am hard pressed to see how this benefits the downtown redevelopment efforts.
With this said, I am beyond frustrated with APC’s antiquated and bloated bureaucracy.  This process has been so painful I am reconsidering moving forward with my additional $20M anticipated investment in other areas of the City.  To date, I am unsure how many thousands of dollars my investment group has incurred in our ongoing discussions with APC.
I am aghast that I am yet again having to ask you for help in addressing this ongoing issue so I can successfully move forward with this small project.  We would much rather be working to do further good for the neighborhood.  Instead, we are still spending our time fighting with City agencies, who should be our partner in these endeavors.***
Highest Regards,Shannon
Shannon Huffer Esq.
Broker, Attorney, Investor, Entrepreneur