Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Clarksville Indiana Government Disses Local Businesses

HARBESON: A not-so historic achievement


CLARKSVILLE — I feel bad for some Clarksville business owners who are trying to operate down by the Ohio River. Two businesses, Marrs’ Landfill and Innovative Crushing and Aggregate have received nothing but trouble from local government ever since a third company, Kentuckiana Trucking, was accused of taking contaminated dirt from Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center.

Naturally, the Clarksville Town Council is leery of handing that company a permit to operate while this situation remains unsettled. But what’s odd is that they are attacking others who happen to have businesses in the same general area who were never implicated in the Yum! situation. As far as I know, there is no evidence of any wrongdoing from either of them. It appears to be guilt by geographical association.

It wasn’t until I heard the comments from Jane Sarles, president of the Clarksville Historical Society that I started realizing there may be something else going on — these businesses are in the way.

See, all of this is tied to historical preservation districts and Clarksville government’s Comprehensive Plan. This government designation is intended to impose rules and regulations in the riverfront area based on the history revolving around George Rogers Clark and the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

In other words, Clarksville officials really, really want control of these private properties. So if they can lump them in with Kentuckiana Trucking, it’s much easier to rationalize the denial of operating permits and the masterplan becomes that much closer.

I understand the desire to transform the riverfront area to a place where people can go and enjoy the natural resource we happen to live near. What I don’t understand is the disrespect to current property owners, especially if they have not broken any laws.

This disrespect came out loud and clear in Ms. Sarles’ comments during a Clarksville Town Council meeting discussing the permits. She explained the town was at a fork in the road of its history and one fork will “allow these people to continue destroying” the town’s history and the other fork will preserve it.

Come on, Ms. Sarles, do you really have to be so disrespectful of your neighbors? Must you denigrate the business owners by creating imagery of them as “destroyers” just because they are using their private property in ways you don’t approve?

As a Clarksville taxpayer I am embarrassed at what I’m seeing.

What’s fascinating is that the fill site operated by Benjamin Marrs can apparently lay claim to local history of its own because it’s been reported that fill from this site was used to build Interstate 65. That’s a pretty important road for anyone wanting to bring people to Clarksville.

Another company caught in this crossfire, Innovative Crushing and Aggregate, does a job all of those interested in preserving the environment should also respect and appreciate — concrete recycling.

Let’s face it. We know the masterplan needs these guys out of business, even if they are operating properly. We know officials are willing to use government force in the form of laws, permits and regulations that fall in various zoning and historical district boundaries to make it happen. We also know it’s probably inevitable that the government will eventually win.

I guess all we can ask for now is that they at least be honest about how the denial of permits fits into the masterplan. And it sure would be nice if Clarksville officials could find a way to honor what these businesses have done for the community at large, working for decades in unglamorous, but necessary industries and paying taxes to help fund the visions of those who now want to kick them out.

Is that much respect really too much to ask?

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson has a masterplan which is intended to get others to disrespect government as much as she does.

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