Both the city manager and a downtown developer say a local man is jumping the gun with his complaint that "No trespassing" signs block promised public access to shorelines.
Willie McCarty lambasted commissioners at their meeting Monday for denying residents passage to northern and eastern shorelines in the Paper District. The areas, located near the site of the proposed transient marina, have been closed for construction.
McCarty said he noticed the signs when he tried to go fishing. He said he did not notice them prior to the start of summer.
"Here's another lie the city has made to us," he said Tuesday. "We should have access to the waterfront."
McCarty noted there is no public access to the waterfront behind any downtown buildings. He said when the trespassing warnings appeared, "we thought the property owners were going to take the rights away from the fishermen."
City Manager Matt Kline said the city isn't breaking a promise, just protecting people from a dangerous construction site.
"The accusation, 'You promised us it's going to be public,' is unfounded, because it's not finished," Kline said.
Mike Sharp, a spokesman for Mid-States Development in Columbus, said the "No Trespassing" signs have probably been in place since the Chesapeake Lofts project began. He said they were state-mandated and will remain posted until the shoreline project is complete.
"When it's finished, that will all be public sidewalk," he said. "The promise hasn't been broken. It's just not finished."
Sharp said the ground along the shoreline was reinforced to prevent erosion, and it needs time to settle before concrete can be poured. He said the timeline for that process remains open.
McCarty said if that's the case, the city should make it known to an uninformed public.
"Instead of putting up a 'No trespassing' sign, why not put up a 'Temporarily no trespassing' sign," he said. "They're not keeping the pubic up-to-date because I think they really don't know what's going on. They're playing it by ear. Keep us informed what's going on, and we'll have a little better rapport with the city."
If residents don't keep policing city officials, they're going to take away more locations meant for public access, McCarty said.
"I'm not afraid to stand up there and tell them, 'I'm watching you,'" he said.