My opponent’s new video touts an “exciting” new project that would create “mixed use residential”, “commercial,” “entertainment” and “parking” along the Broad Street corridor. Property would be taken from the firehouse, city owned parking, and private properties. Cost estimates were not given but could range up to $100 million. What’s more, they claim all of this would reduce residential taxes!
My opponent’s proposal demonstrates a lack of real-world financial experience and a startling naiveté regarding how the private sector operates. There are real adverse consequences from her proposed radical changes to our fragile and precious downtown.
As a downtown business owner, occupying space and providing employment just opposite Peppercorn for over 20 years, one of my key motivations to run for office is to create an even more lively, vibrant downtown. It’s one of the reasons people move to Summit.
But, the history of municipal mega projects is littered with failures, with fast talking developers making big bucks, taxpayers picking up the tab, existing businesses needing to fend off taxpayer subsidized competition, and motorists and pedestrians choking with even more congestion.
A council member should first do no harm and guard the public dime as if it were their own. I pledge to leverage my 35 years’ experience as an attorney and financial analyst to study carefully every aspect of any development proposal. That experience includes project finance, municipal projects, and investments around the globe.
Our citizens count on us to keep us out of ditches, to do the careful analysis that they simply don’t have the time to do. I will never oppose a project that our citizens want, but pledge to always use my skills and experience to ensure that the decision is fully informed, with all potential risks and costs carefully explained before contracts are signed.
Here are several concerns before excitement is warranted.
Raze the Firehouse?
Razing the firehouse and building a new one will cost $20 million or more. No developer will pay for that. I will not ask our taxpayers to foot that bill while the current one is still functional. I will do the needed legwork to see if this could be a shared endeavor with an adjoining town.
I fully support any proposal that promotes our downtown. But, this mega project, with entertainment and commercial (assume that means new shops and restaurants), effectively creates a new downtown, turning our back on the old one. Quite simply, if vacancies are a problem why would you create additional stores? Shopkeepers I have spoken to are adamantly opposed.
Developers are out to make the most money with the least risk. To shoulder a $100 million deal, they will seek taxpayer debt guarantees, relaxation of zoning requirements that help preserve the character of our downtown, and sweetheart tax holidays.
Mortgaging our financial future and irrevocably changing the character of our downtown must only occur after careful public debate. I would advocate a public referendum.
I can’t advocate for tax subsidies by our residents to entice developers to Summit.
Taking Land from Our Senior Housing/Post Office/Private Property Owners?
Somehow conveniently overlooked in their proposal is the complexity of where the land will come from.
Grabbing land from our senior housing is unlikely. Land from government funded projects is unlikely, nor do I think our senior citizens there would appreciate this.
You are not going to force the US Government to turn over the Post Office. Negotiations in the past have been unsuccessful.
Using city owned parking just adds to our parking issues and congestion. While a sale to a developer would provide a quick boost to our coffers, our city would lose control of valuable property very close to the downtown, reducing our options in the future.
Razing the firehouse invites the question of what land do you use for a new one, and the attendant costs.
Voters have a real choice in this election. I pledge to protect our citizens’ interests and analyze carefully every aspect of any proposed mega projects before advising excitement.
David Dietze is the Republican candidate for Summit Common Council, At-Large.
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