Bluff Talk 

Council sets public hearing on riverfront for May 18th.

If you blinked, you would have missed it.

In a move that didn't take as long as getting all the interested parties inside the City Council chambers, the Public Works and Transportation Committee decided Tuesday to hold a public hearing May 18th on the Memphis Promenade Land Use Plan.

With staff from the Riverfront Development Corporation (RDC), the group that commissioned the plan, and members of Friends for Our Riverfront (FfOR), a grassroots organization that sprung up in protest of the plan, filling the room, committee chairperson Janet Hooks made it clear that no one would be able to speak on the issue in the meeting.

FfOR president Virginia McLean said the group was told they would not be able to speak but they came prepared to anyway, just in case. The group made something of a nonverbal statement, however, with lime-green ribbons on their shirts to show exactly what side they were on.

"I thought the 18th would be a public forum on just this issue, and it sounds like it will be just one issue on the agenda," McLean said after the meeting. "That bothered me a bit."

Other members worry that a hearing during a regularly scheduled council meeting will mean they won't get enough time to say everything they think needs to be said.

"That could mean anyone who has a comment could be limited to 60 seconds. Our group of 200-plus could be limited to 60 seconds or, more than likely, five minutes to plead our case," said FfOR vice president John Gary.

The RDC's plan includes a two-tiered public promenade along with private development of "active" uses, such as restaurants and shops. Funds from commercial and residential development will go to pay for the entire $292 million plan. FfOR's plan -- estimated by them to cost $7 million -- would tear down many of the existing structures along the promenade and remake it as a public park.

"I think we need to have equal access to the City Council and we haven't had that," said McLean. "They haven't had the opportunity to hear us. There's a real need to look at this thing, to really study what's going on instead of just looking at pretty pictures and PR."

E-mail: cashiola@memphisflyer.com

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