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.
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).Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â When this one surfaced publicly a few weeks ago, I attended nearly every meeting (public and otherwise); I asked a lot of questions.Â 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. Â That is their right, certainly, but I don’t think it’s wise.Â 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.
For everyone else, don’t trust what someone spoon-feeds you; go to the source.