On a night when scores of residents flooded to city hall, city commissioners took steps to circumvent a petition that would delay the Marina District project.
The petition, filed by the Citizens for Responsive Government, would put the project back on the ballot in November. Voters approved the Marina District in an advisory vote in November 2007.
Commissioners requested two pieces of legislation: The first would repeal the old Developer's Agreement and the second would approve the agreement under emergency legislation. Emergency legislation is not subject to referendum petitions, according to the city charter.
The commission voted 5-0 for the emergency legislation, with commissioner Dan Kaman abstaining from the vote.
"We've already had a vote," city commissioner Brett Fuqua said, referring to the 2007 vote. "I've received e-mails saying it would be illegal to have a new vote. I've also received e-mails saying it would be illegal to pass emergency legislation. To me, it's illegal to discount what the people have already said."
Commissioner Julie Farrar said the city has to approve the emergency legislation, or it will suffer negative, long-term financial effects.
"If (developer John Eymann) jumps ship, it may be 20 years or even more before another developer comes near us," Farrar said. "If you want progress, you have to accept change. You can't have progress without change. I'm sorry, but I'm for change."
Three spokesmen for the CRG -- Tim Schwanger, A.J. Oliver and Mark Norman -- all bemoaned the commission's decision during the audience-participation segment of the meeting.
They reiterated their objections to the project: They don't want development on public property, they don't know the cost of relocating city hall, they don't know all of Eymann's investors, and they haven't had a chance to vet those investors.
Furthermore, they said cities like Cincinnati and Chicago have successfully protected their waterfronts, allowing development without building on the water's edge.
Eymann, who spoke twice during the meeting, reiterated that "every single inch" of the shoreline will be accessible. He said he will increase access to the waterfront, as required in the Developer's Agreement, by putting a boardwalk closer to the water. Right now, he said, you can only get within 20 feet of the water because of rocky terrain.
The CRG members said the city commission should wait one year and let the city re-vote, or they will take legal action against the city.
"That's probably going to happen," Schwanger said. "That would probably delay it two or three years."
Many residents in the standing-room-only crowd expressed gratitude to the commission for ordering the emergency legislation.
"I'm offended the city wouldn't accept (last year's) vote," said Jeff Smith, an ex-marine who lives in the city. "I just appreciate what you guys have done tonight, and thank you for listening to my vote last November."
The commission will vote on the emergency legislation at 5 p.m. Dec. 16 at city hall. The vote will be open to the public.