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Conflicts of interest? Ambler beautification project raising some eyebrows

By Mari Cockerell, mcockerell@ktxs.com
Published On: Mar 28 2013 01:06:21 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 29 2013 08:32:06 AM CDT
ABILENE, Texas -

Abilene City Council is moving forward with plans to tidy-up part of Ambler Avenue, but it's not after some questions over potential conflicts of interest.

It's called the Ambler Avenue Corridor Overlay and covers the stretch of Ambler going from I-20 to Grape Street. The idea is to improve the look of Ambler that connects some of Abilene's major players.

"Three of the major institutions in our city have brought about the desire to have this Ambler Corridor be considered for approval," said Mayor Norm Archibald, referring to Abilene Christian University, Hardin-Simmons University, and Hendrick Medical Center.
 
The project would regulate who could set up shop along Ambler, restricting automotive and storage business, and calling for all others to maintain appearances and promote "high quality" development.
 
The problem, as brought up by Abilene City Council candidate Steve Savage, is four members of Abilene City Council have direct ties to the three institutions pushing the project.  Either they or close family members are employed by ACU, HSU, or Hendrick.

Archibald, for example, works for Hendrick.

"I don't see that as being conducive to a business friendly environment, if a guy wants to put in an oil change place, or outdoor storage, and I don't see them trying to do that over there, but if they did, it just doesn't seem fair to those guys," Savage said.
 
Texas law does allow the four council members with connections to the schools and medical center to vote on the matter since it would be impossible to get a majority without four of the seven members participating.  They will, however, need to file affidavits disclosing their affiliations.

The Ambler Corridor project is now set to go to a public hearing at the April 11 City Council meeting.