The city’s decade-long vision of transforming an area along South Broad Street into an extension of downtown was scrapped Tuesday night by the City Council’s failure to reach a consensus.
The council was being asked to include the plan for the area in one of the city’s main planning documents — the Land Use and Circulation Element, which is being updated.
However, the four-person council, after hours of public testimony at two separate council meetings, could not agree on the terms of that plan, known as the South Broad Street Area Plan.
The plan — dormant for years — requires costly feasibility studies. The city had hoped to cut costs to a manageable level by including the plan in the city’s broader planning update, which is nearing completion.
The stalemate between council members led Mayor Jan Marx to chide the council for bad governance.
“I really feel this is a disservice to business owners and all of the people who have put so much time and energy into this plan,” Marx said. “It is bad public policy what is happening tonight.”
The council is down to four members after the resignation of Andrew Carter. A 2-2 vote is the equivalent of inaction.
This is not the first time the council was unable to reach a consensus on the issue.
The council postponed making a decision on March 5 after hearing hours of public comment from land and business owners in the area, leading the council to ask staff to formulate a better plan to protect manufacturers’ business interests.
The South Broad Street Area Plan, if implemented, would have defined how development would occur in the 140-acre neighborhood midway between downtown and the airport.
The plan included the area of Broad Street that is bounded by Santa Barbara Street, the railroad tracks, South Street and Orcutt Road.
Business owners in that area have repeatedly raised concerns that the plan could potentially eliminate future heavy manufacturing and industrial businesses that have long been rooted in the area, pushing that type of business closer to the airport.
The plan would have also made desired improvements to Broad Street, such as an eventual median and improved pedestrian access from the west and east sides of the road.
No one has disagreed with the Broad Street improvements.
Councilwoman Kathy Smith said Tuesday night she would only support a plan that did not allow any zoning changes to the area, thereby protecting the existing businesses.
Smith said she wanted to retain the eclectic mix of businesses in the area but allow for Broad Street improvements and encourage more business and residential development in the area.
Carpenter said he would only support the improvements planned for Broad Street. Eric Meyer, a city planning commissioner who once endorsed the plan, agreed.
“I’m convinced,” said Meyer. “Let’s fix the road, bike paths and leave the rest alone. That is what I hear.”
The city’s plan included building up to 425 new homes and an additional 880,000 square feet of commercial space to the planning area and transforming Victoria Avenue into a “Main Street” with shops and homes.
In 2006, the city spent more than $100,000 to devise the plan for the South Broad Street corridor.
The city has used a $110,000 state grant and $22,000 in city funds to put the concept together.
The impacts of Tuesday’s decision were not immediately clear. The task force for the Land Use and Circulation Element update will still discuss the future of the area but will not use the South Broad Street Area Plan as a guide.