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Development Prompts Heated Exchange Between Councilman, Attorney in Ludlow

Questions about a forthcoming development in Ludlow led to a heated exchange between a city councilman and the city attorney during and after Thursday night's council meeting.

Councilman Tom Amann questioned whether the Ludlow Yards development could move forward without another vote by members of council. In September, city council selected Philadelphia-based Pennrose for the ambitious mixed-use project that will serve as a gateway into the city's business district. At the time, it was noted that a specific project was not being approved - just a developer, who would work with city leaders and the community before presenting a development plan.

But, Amann said, Pennrose is moving forward with community engagement plans - before a preferred developer agreement was approved by city council. That's a step that he believes must be taken.

Amann addressed the concern to attorney Fred Johnson. "I would suggest as acting as our city attorney - and Jeff Otis is our actual city attorney but if you're standing in for him - I would ask you and Jeff to review the preferred developer term sheet and present to council next month so we can approve it," Amann said.

Johnson, who is law partners with Jeff Otis at the Covington-based firm Otis & Johnson, did not accept the order.

"That's just your request," Johnson said. "I'm not saying we're going to do that. You can't just order me to do something."

"Gentlemen, please," Mayor Ken Wynn said, interrupting the exchange. "I understand there is an issue and we'll get it ironed out."

But the sniping continued, even after the meeting adjourned, in the presence of a reporter from The River City News. Johnson approached and criticized Amann for saying "stupid" things while Amann was critical of Johnson's "demeanor". "You're out of control, the way you talk to council," Amann was heard saying.

City administrator Elishia Chamberlain called for Police Chief Scott Smith to intervene, though the argument never escalated any further.
 
After the meeting, The River City News inquired about the development agreement and Amann's questions. Chamberlain said that the voice resolution approved last September authorizes her, Wynn, and the Ludlow Yards committee to negotiate the terms of the agreement. She suggested that there is simply confusion over the sale of the surplus property where Ludlow Yards will be constructed. Council will have to approve that final sale, she said.

Mayor Wynn said that he believes Ludlow Yards will be a successful development and that he looks forward to working with Pennrose in developing the project.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher