Tom Tousis's proposal for the corner of Washington Avenue and West Boulevard is the only item on the agenda for the RDA's special meeting. Tousis wants to build a $5 million grocery store and restaurant with gas pumps on the vacant site.
Tousis needs the RDA to agree to sell him the land to move forward with the city approval process. He's run into resistance from a group led by Alderman Jim Spangenberg, who opposes the gas pumps.
The meeting's first vote likely will be an effort by RDA members Pete Karas and Scott Terry to hold discussion of Tousis' option in open session. Two meetings ago the RDA voted 4-3 against discussing the proposal in open session. Robert Ledvina joined Karas and Terry in trying to prevent the closed session. John Crimmings, Cory Mason, David Lange and Spangenberg voted to close the meeting to the public.
It's unclear if the RDA will take action on Tousis' proposal Monday. If they vote to approve Tousis's option, the City Council will not consider the proposal at its meeting on Tuesday. Instead, it will be put off until the council's Jan. 5 meeting.
Spangenberg laid out his objections to Tousis's project (including objecting to Tousis supporters' tactics) in a commentary that appeared in The Journal Times on Thursday. In the commentary, Spangenberg said he supports a grocery store and sitdown restaurant (with a liquor license to serve beer and wine) and even suggested some wiggle room on the gas station. Instead of outright rejecting the idea, Spangenberg suggested he could support a well-designed gas station on the site, writing:
The gas station would need to be a new urban design. This means the gas station does not look like a gas station but fits in with the business district and neighborhood.Many of Spangenberg's concerns, such as too much traffic at the intersection, are issues that would be discussed by the city's Plan Commission and Access Corridor Development Review committee. But Tousis's proposal has not reached that stage because the RDA needs to decide if it wants to sell the land for the project.
Tousis offered to buy the land for $250,000 with a forgivable mortgage of $50,000 for five years if he creates at least 24 jobs. It's unclear if the city will make a counter-offer or simply accept or reject the proposal. Monday's meeting should answer that question.