Get the Facts, Please.

Listening to the parade of speakers at last night’s City Council meeting, I noticed a common thread among the several who spoke in opposition to the project.

Pine Ridge.

Everyone says they’d welcome a SuperTarget, but the opponents tend to be carrying a set of talking points that were circulated by DFET members on their listserv (which I’ve apparently been removed from – I guess I don’t have the right “progressive” credentials).  In short, the environmentalists were enraged with the development of Pine Ridge several years ago, and they’re dead-set against something going up there now, lest the guy who bought it and sunk millions into improvements actually make a buck on the deal.

There’s nothing at all wrong with this group of people stating opposition to something that is contrary to their beliefs — that’s the American way, after all.  However, they are promoting the referendum website, which contains some significant errors:

City officials have talked as though a contract with Target were already signed and a Target was a guaranteed part of the development. This is not the case. The City proposes to subsidize a shopping center developer who will then market his center to Target.

In fact, the City Manager stated quite clearly last night that one of the proposed conditions for release of any funds toward this project is Target’s signature on the purchase contract, with a commitment for a SuperTarget in particular.  Another condition is that the City be provided a list of other tenants who have signed leases for the associated stores — who do not have a current presence in Oak Ridge — showing a long enough lease term to ensure that the City’s investment will have some expectation of return over a long period.

This agreement has not yet been fully developed nor signed by any of the parties, but the fact that there will be such conditions that must be met before any City funds are released is a reasonable assurance upon which to move forward in the negotiations.

Look, I’m one of the folks who got burned by Arnsdorff and his snake-oil promises of mall redevelopment, and as such, view other projects requiring a large municipal investment with a healthy dose of skepticism.  When this one surfaced publicly a few weeks ago, I attended nearly every meeting (public and otherwise); I asked a lot of questions.  I studied the numbers, and weighed it against what else we might use the money for that would generate a better return.

Now, this group is preparing a petition drive to call for a referendum on the $6M general obligation bond issue.   That is their right, certainly, but I don’t think it’s wise.  Of course, they probably realize that a referendum could jeopardize the whole deal (with the option on the land expiring April 15, but June 5 is the soonest possible date that a referendum could be held), and that’s part of their motivation.

I won’t be signing it, and I do hope that the people and the media (Stan, John, Bob — that’s you) are willing to call these folks where there are discrepancies or misinformation being circulated.

For everyone else, don’t trust what someone spoon-feeds you; go to the source.

7 thoughts on “Get the Facts, Please.

  1. They certainly distort the facts to try to support their prior opinion. It’s as if their position can’t stand on the truth.

    I have also noticed an undercurrent that basically says, “I hate Nat Revis, and I don’t want him to make any money.” And while that may be a perfectly fine desire, I wish they could separate that position from the number one wish from the recent city survey which says that we need better retail. It seems that they want their pet cause even if it means that they try to block what most citizens need.

    Perhaps they should realize that they will have Nat out of their hair when this goes through. I personally will give them full credit if that helps.

  2. It’s unfortunate that they feel that way. Nat Revis is a fine man who does many good things, which few people know about because he doesn’t seek attention for them.

  3. Netmom – I would like to see either from you or the city officials where the $142 million additional purchase power is going to come from. Just by multiplying 450,000 sqft with national averages does not make money grow in Oak Ridge. I would like to see a demand side analysis.

    I have the leakage study of how much residents of Anderson County / Oak Ridge spend out side of Oak Ridge and on what. Those numbers only represent 4% loss at the margins on items that will be sold through stores at CrestPointe. These leakage studies are developed by TVA and are actively used by the City and the Chamber to attract new businesses like Lowes.

    There is a lot of rhetoric. Lets come together and look at some facts that we can independently arrive at and not through numbers supplied by GBT.

    One of the positive unintended consequences of the referendum will be that it will provide the city a leverage to negotiate a better deal with GBT.

  4. Netmom, I suspect that you have been “listening selectively” if you perceive that people who have concerns about this project are all “environmentalists [who] were enraged with the development of Pine Ridge.” I have been hearing a diverse variety of concerns expressed by people who oppose the project, some of whom were not even aware that the project would be located on Pine Ridge.

    Regarding whether or not the city has a contract with Target, there is a widespread misconception (resulting from public statements by city officials that referred to this with names like “SuperTarget project”) that the city is negotiating directly with Target. Indeed, I believe that one reason for some people’s opposition to city participation in the project is their mistaken belief that the city is negotiating with Target and that city money would go to Target to entice the company to move here. I’m surprised that you would disparage citizens’ efforts to dispel that kind of misconception.

    As for that dfet listserv, maybe there has been a glitch in your mail delivery, because it appears to me that you are still a member…

  5. Ellen, I’m very interested in everyone understanding the facts, including the fact that the City is not negotiating directly with Target (but through their agent, GBT), and that the proposed $10.5M will not go into Target’s pocket.

    The Target link is not so tenuous as being just an ambitious wish on the part of GBT; there’s an established relationship there, and GBT would not risk their business relationship by throwing around the Target name without a firm commitment. The other websites referenced do insinuate that there’s a bait-and-switch going on.

    I just really hope that the potential referendum doesn’t kill the possibility, and am concerned that the petition drive portrays the people of Oak Ridge as being very business-unfriendly.

  6. Netmom

    Let not decide under duress that they wont come. If they see a market they will come. If they won’t come then somebody else will. I would rather be labeled business-unfriendly rather than a SUCKER.

  7. Raj, why do you feel duress? Our duly elected representatives have unanimously supported this project. It has been in the works since 2004. The deadline of April involves getting into the project queue for a timely completion. Since the last referendum, we have lost retail space resulting in enhanced retail being the highest requested city improvement in the latest city survey.

    The real question is why do you so oppose it? Why do you feel duress?

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