Town of Clarksville prepares updated plans for West Riverfront District

Brooke McAfee, The Evening News and the Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind.
·4 min read

Mar. 3—CLARKSVILLE — River Heritage Conservancy's plans for Origin Park will mean big changes for Clarksville, and the town is working to adapt its vision to align with plans for the sprawling park.

The Town of Clarksville is in the process of amending the town-wide comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance for the West Riverfront District, which would include Origin Park and surrounding areas north and east of the park.

The amended comprehensive plan and zoning district will likely go before the town's plan commission in May. The commission would approve a recommendation for or against the proposals, and the plans would likely go to the Clarksville Town Council in June.

Last Thursday, the Town of Clarksville presented a virtual workshop to discuss ideas for the West Riverfront District. In the presentation, the town provided a vision statement for the West Riverfront District:

"As a gateway to Clarksville, the West Riverfront District should celebrate and enhance Clarksville's history and culture, serve as an example of sustainability, resiliency and floodplain management, and establish connectivity to destinations for residents and visitors."

The plans for Origin Park, unveiled publicly in August 2020, include over 20 miles of trails, 4.5 miles of blueways and hundreds of acres of forest set along the Ohio River. Most of the park would be located in Clarksville.

The West Riverfront District will include areas south and west of Brown Station Way.

Jacob Arbital, planning director for Clarksville, said the town is taking a "30,000 degree view" of the area to consider changes to the town's long-term plan.

"Now that we see this potential and this push by the River Heritage Conservancy to build the park, we from a municipal standpoint need to take a look at this long-term vision," he said. "What does our long-term vision look like, and how does it fit in with the objective of River Heritage to develop Origin Park?"

The town is working with Taylor Siefker Williams Design Group in Louisville to develop these its plans for the riverfront.

The proposed zoning changes would include new guidelines for land use, and the new zoning district would facilitate mixed-use, residential and recreational development, Arbital said. He notes that the development of Origin Park also means potential development interest around the park.

"The biggest change would be that a lot of this area is currently zoned industrial," he said. "We're looking at policy objectives for the long-term sustainability of the area and community, and we're seeing a need to revisit zoning. Industrial is perhaps not the most appropriate use."

Clarksville Town Manager Kevin Baity said one of the goals is protecting neighborhoods from development that could be detrimental to the area.

"I think one of the main things people might not understand is what we're doing is putting in place the framework by which development and redevelopment of the area can occur, such that it will not harm the residential area that surrounds it," he said.

One of the recommendations is to ensure new development that is compatible with existing neighborhoods in terms of land use and architectural character, including neighborhoods such as the historic Lincoln Heights, which was placed last year on the National Register of Historic Places.

"There are some really nice neighborhoods that in some cases have been designated at the federal level as historic," Arbital said. "Other neighborhoods would qualify. That means something for the town, that means something for the the neighborhoods, and that means something for the residents. It brings character to a community.

"We want to make sure potential growth and development doesn't detract substantially from quality of life or historical integrity," he said.

Mike Mustain, vice president of the town council and plan commission member, said the plans are not "shovel-ready," but instead are "policy goals and objectives seeking to best co-mingle residential, business and recreation" in Clarksville.

The town is still in the process of collecting public feedback for the proposed changes to the comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance.

"Things are moving along well — I think we've got some good community support from those that we've talked to," Arbital said. "There is some concern from businesses currently located in the area, and that's completely understandable.

The zoning change would not mean that existing businesses would "have to pack up shop and leave," he said.

Instead, existing structures and uses that do not fit the criteria outlined in the updated zoning code would be categorized as "legal non-conforming."

They would be allowed to continue operation as long as they do not change their use or expand the physical location.

"The plan is to make sure that existing businesses are allowed to stay," Baity said. "Certain parameters might be set in place so they might not be able to expand beyond their current footprint, but this change does not automatically make businesses close.

"It just sets the framework for how in the future the area will be developed," he said.