PDT Staff Writer
Portsmouth City Council tabled the ordinance to vacate Third Street between Gay Street and Waller Street for Shawnee State University Monday night because of the absence of a complete description of the specific land to be vacated.
The ordinance read in several places - “for vacation of portions of certain streets and alleys, hereinafter set forth…”; “Whereas, all property owners of property abutting upon the portion of said streets…”; “for the vacation of portions of certain streets and alleys, hereinafter fully described (Exhibit A)…” However the streets and alleys were not “hereinafter” listed in the ordinance, and there was no “Exhibit A.”
“Mr. Solicitor, where is Exhibit ‘A,’?” First Ward Councilman Kevin Johnson asked.
City Solicitor John Haas said the University was in the process of assembling that report and that it should be available in a few days.
“All we’re lacking is the legal definition of that street of Third from Gay to Waller?” Johnson asked. “I’ll be honest, on behalf of the public I normally don’t like to proceed….had it been more I would have asked to table it until the legal definition of it is a matter of clarity.”
Early on, the plan was to give the ordinance a first reading, but as the discussion went on, it took several turns.
SSU Facilities Director Butch Kotcamp said he hopes the report would be available within days.
“It seems to me that to proceed without Exhibit A, and Exhibit A is described in the ordinance, we need to have that to proceed on this,” Fifth Ward Councilman Gene Meadows said. “It is premature to be looking at anything without the full ordinance.”
Johnson said since he saw other support for tabling the measure, he would ask that the ordinance be tabled and brought back at the next City Council meeting for a first reading.
Johnson showed what looked like support for the closing when he said - “The situation is different for me than two years ago when I voted against this proposition. Two years ago Shawnee State had not met with members of Council, had not, with my knowledge, and this is good knowledge, met with the city schools, had not met with Social Security and had not met with a number of other people. Since then, they have done so. Since then they have addressed each and every of the questions I have provided them, they’ve provided an outline — very specific — on how they are going to appropriate $270,000 to address various issues. They have an agreement with the police and fire department, and that middle, which is now Third Street, will continue to be used by emergency services.”
The vote was taken to table the ordinance, and that motion passed four to two.
During the course of the meeting, several people expressed opposition to the closing of Third Street, again citing the danger for students crossing Fourth Street to go to school despite endorsement from the Portsmouth City School District. Lack of access to First Christian Church was also an issue brought to Council.
Austin Leedom urged Council to place it on the ballot for citizens to vote on and Harald Daub talked about the possibility of accidents involving children, telling Council - “their blood will be on your hands.”
Kotcamp reminded Council, the university brings $93 million annually in revenue to the city, and that the current enrollment is 4,600 and projected to climb to 5,300. And Eric Braun, Director of the SSU Development Foundation reiterated the university would continue to do due diligence to handle any problems that could arise.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.