Janesville City Council sticks with south side site

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010
— Didn’t we already decide this?

Four Janesville City council members asked that question Monday before they opted against reconsidering a south side location for a proposed ice arena.

Members of the building committee of the Janesville Youth Hockey Club had asked the council to look at other sites, saying the south side site was hindering fundraising. They said they had heard from businesses that were reluctant to donate because the location did not bring people into the city to spend money.

The committee instead suggested a Black Bridge Road site off of busy Milton Avenue.

The council committed $2 million in October for a new ice arena if the private group raises $1.5 million. The city would chip in another $500,000 for a second sheet of ice if the group raises another $1 million.

Larry Squire said his group was worried everyone moved too fast that night.

“We’ll take whatever site this council decides is in the best interest of the community,” he said. “That night, did we move too fast? Did we not ask enough questions about the site?”

The group has pledges of $600,000 so far with a city deadline of March 1.

The Black Bridge site had been one of more than a dozen city-owned sites analyzed by staff, as was one on the east side at the Youth Sports Complex.

Harry O’Leary, who works downtown, suggested at Monday’s public hearing that the council must be the driving force in downtown development.

Private business will never spend the money needed to clean up the blight, he said.

O’Leary said the council should look again on the west side and Rockport Park.

“It was never intended that all athletic facilities be on the east side of town,” he said.

Steve Scaccia of the Westgate Corridor business group said he would be happy if the west side got another look, as well. But he said he also thought the south side location would do just fine, and that the downtown would be easily accessible from that location.

The arena would be a south side anchor,” Scaccia said. “If we can’t have it on the west side, this will benefit every area of the city.”

Resident Al Lembrich suggested a site on Jackson Street near Dawson Fields.

Brad Cantrell, community development director, said that of all the sites, that might have some merit and that the east and south sides were viable.

The Black Bridge site would be a lightening rod for the project because he guaranteed significant neighborhood opposition.

“I would love to have a facility like this in the downtown,” Cantrell said. But the building alone would take up a city block and require 600 parking spaces. The city can develop about 200 spaces on a city block. A parking garage for 250 spaces costs $4 million, meaning a redevelopment project could cost $10 million.

Utilities would have to be extended into the Rockport Park location at additional cost, he said.

Council member Russ Steeber made the motion to refer the matter to the plan commission because he said he didn’t think he was in the best position on Monday to pick a site.

“I thought we had a site picked out,” council member Tom McDonald said, adding that no matter where the ice arena goes, people will question the decision.

Council member Frank Perrotto said the city should concentrate on finding ways to direct people to city businesses from the south side. He said he viewed the south side site as an anchor for development, particularly along the bypass.

City staff already did an exhaustive study of sites, he said. Now, the council is suggesting there is probably a location they missed, he said.

“I don’t understand the rationale,” Perrotto said. “We already did this. I’m not quite sure why we’re doing it again.”

Council member Bill Truman, too, noted the 6-1 decisions that put the arena on the south side.

“It think we’ve already decided,” Truman said.

The vote to take a second look at locations failed, with Truman, George Brunner, Perrotto and McDonald voting no and Steeber, Kathy Voskuil and Yuri Rashkin voting yes.

Last updated: 12:20 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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