Commission proposes $168,000 purchase for parking lot

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By Becky Barnes, Editor

As of Monday afternoon there was no signed contract for the City of Cynthiana to purchase two buildings at the corner of Pike and Walnut streets.

However, the commission authorized the mayor to respond to an offer for the purchase of real estate. That authorization was given unanimously at the commission’s regular meeting on Feb. 25.

On March 5, a special meeting was held with the agenda to include a discussion of the future of downtown Cynthiana and to consider the purchase of real property and a possible vote on the purchase of real property.

Commissioner Gary Brunker made a motion to rescind the commission’s authorization for the mayor to pursue the property deal. That motion was seconded by Commissioner Roger Slade, whose business is across the street from the property, which now houses The Rock.

However, Brunker’s motion was not approved with Mayor Steve Moses and Commissioners Billy Grayson and Jack Keith opposing.

“I have changed my mind,” Slade said. “It may not be the best way to go and I hope this doesn’t stifle progress.”

“Since the Feb. 25 meeting, we have all gained some information, some thoughts and concerns from the downtown business owners,” Brunker said. “We can make a decision and realize it’s not correct and back up. That’s why I made the motion.”

Keith voiced his own concerns. 

“We need more than a parking lot downtown,” he said. “The schematic shows 22 parking spaces; that’s a whole lot of money to spend on 22 parking spaces.”

Moses said in a telephone interview on Monday that the offer for the lot is $168,000 after demolition. Jeff and Suzanne Taylor, the buildings’ owners, would be responsible for tearing down the building and meeting EPA and permit regulations.

Moses called the pending agreement “a very simple contract.”

He said either party can back out at any time before demolition begins.

He explained that if it is determined there is asbestos in the building and the cost of abatement is cost prohibitive, the Taylors can back out.

Moses said that there have been some amendments to the original contract and that the commission would have to see the new one before he would sign it.

At the special meeting several downtown business owners addressed the commission about their own concerns.

Stan Lemons, who owns Main Street’s Uniques, suggested that if parking hours were enforced there would be plenty of downtown parking.

“I can’t imagine why we need more parking with the exception of lunchtime,” Lemons said. “If you have the extra funding, why not spend it on what we have? Owning more property only creates more need for more upkeep.”

Pat Grenier, Chamber director, told commissioners that using signs to direct visitors to parking would help, as would adding lights to the existing lots.

“I do think if we get more businesses we will  need additional parking or more identified parking,” Grenier said.

Chamber board member Bob Owen said that Cynthiana is losing businesses and the buildings in downtown are devaluating.

“Landlords are not willing to do anything to empty buildings that are not generating any income,” Owen said. 

Bonnie Skinner, P&Z director, offered to do a parking study at no charge to the city. She said an additional 16 parking spaces were found downtown during a meeting with state road department supervisor Kevin Florence.

Emily Ammerman, Cynthiana’s new Main Street Program director, said she is willing to help property owners pursue grants that will help them with the costs of making repairs to their buildings.

She also noted that any building over 50 years old qualifies and that downtown Cynthiana is considered an historic business district.

“There’s not a single business that wouldn’t benefit from additional parking,” said Dr. Neil Rush. “I’m in favor of preservation, but preservation for preservation’s sake is wrong. Look at the ghost towns in New Mexico.”

He added that economic development needs to flourish and that additional parking will aid in that goal.

“Sometimes we have to choose between historic preservation and economic preservation,” Rush said.

Moses said buying the property is a good idea.

 “If we can’t get more business downtown, why not apartments?” Moses questioned. “Buying that property is for the future. If we don’t do something right away, we might as well quit doing anything.”