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|Quantifiable Differences in Wal-Mart Dark Store Agreement Just “Semantics”?|
|Commentary/Politics - Editorials|
|Tuesday, 12 June 2001 18:00|
Hopefully, the public has been watching Super Wal-Mart as it has proceeded, at times allegedly unlawfully, toward its ultimate conclusion. The last leg of this development travesty was the “dark store agreement” conceived and perpetrated upon Davenport taxpayers by Alderman Bob McGivern, who only further demonstrated his lack of understanding of business matters so crucial to the proceedings.
Wal-Mart countered the city’s terms with changes to the dark store agreement that reflected their best interests, not those of Davenport. The changes were as follows: 1) The percentage increase in taxes before Wal-Mart can protest was lowered from 10% to 7%. 2) The marketing time allowed the city should Wal-Mart not execute a sale or a lease in the first two years after the old store becomes vacant was limited to two years from indefinitely. 3) The time for escrowing the “full purchase price” should an interested buyer come forward was lowered from 120 days to 60 days.
The differences in the terms stated above were characterized by McGivern as purely “semantic,” completely ignoring the substantive changes and attempting to dismiss them as irrelevant, which further reveals either the incompetence or the deception with which this alderman operates. Hardly semantic, the new terms represent real and quantifiable differences that dramatically turn the agreement into a better deal for Wal-Mart than for Davenport. Unfortunately, ignoring the best interests of Davenport has been the modus operandi of most of this council from day one. All that can be done at this point is to keep this disservice to Davenport in mind at the polls in November, when Alderman McGivern must be held accountable for these self-serving agendas.
Alderman Sherwood weighed in with his typical nonsense, asking corporation counsel John Martin to assure us all that “under no circumstances will the city buy the property, right John?” Martin responded that the city has the “opportunity to exercise an option to purchase or to assign the property to a third party.” Let the translation for Alderman Sherwood begin—option to purchase means right to buy. The possibility exists that the city will buy the property precisely as the dark store giveaway states. It amazes most of us to listen to the various aldermen contradict the very provisions in the agreement as if the clauses somehow don’t really mean what they say.
Alderman Sherwood went on to urge fellow council members not to hold up construction on any of the improvements by voting against the new dark store agreement. Obviously, he doesn’t read, otherwise he would know that further negotiations on the ridiculous dark store giveaway would not hold up construction. What he is really doing is posturing for developers, making sure his campaign contributors aren’t confused about his allegiances. Alderman Sherwood need not worry—nobody is confused.
Mayoral Candidate Delusional
I can’t help but wonder what would possess a man like Sherwood to run for mayor after he has betrayed the public trust to a point beyond political redemption. I can recall three major planks in Sherwood’s platform for Alderman at Large that he completely abandoned upon entering office. His three primary issues were no TIFs on 53rd Street (or abuse of such public financing tools for the benefit of developers at the expense of taxpayers); no more sprawl; and open government. Well, for the record, Alderman Sherwood fully supported a TIF for Sentry Insurance, located at 53rd Street and Utica Ridge Road. He also championed two SSMIDs for THF Realty, both along 53rd Street. Both projects are abuses of the spirit of the laws that govern these public financing tools, and both represent classic cases of sprawl. Sherwood has also supported nearly every development project on or near 53rd Street, which constitutes ongoing, poorly planned sprawl at its worst. His justification that these developments increase the tax coffers so we have funds to spend for projects in our poorer neighborhoods is pure spin. If this were the case, he would have advocated all the economic impact studies possible to support such claims, but instead he dismissed them as unnecessary. Finally, he was one of the chief supporters of censoring the Public with Business portion of all council meetings. He was also captured on tape telling a concerned citizen that most city business goes on behind closed doors, away from public scrutiny. By these actions, Alderman Sherwood couldn’t get further away from the issues that got him elected. So pray tell, what can he be running on this time—more sprawl, or even more closed government? How about some more TIFs and SSMIDs for developers up on 53rd Street, which have become his forte? In two words: no thanks.
Could Alderman Sherwood be more delusional in his ambitions to be Davenport’s next mayor? Does he really believe that his consistent departure from his campaign promises hasn’t been noted by the public, especially those constituents who worked so hard to get him elected? Does he discount his political betrayal of such supporters as CURV as not an issue for his chances to be elected to any office? Regardless, Alderman Sherwood announced his candidacy last week with his developer buddies by his side. The good news is he will no longer hold a council seat, where his civic betrayal is executed through his individual votes that benefit the few at the expense of the many in Davenport.
Davenport Plan & Zoning System “Dysfunctional”
As one citizen explained recently, the plan and zone process in Davenport is “severely dysfunctional.” Case in point is the recent approval by the Plan & Zoning Commission of a combination of commercial (C2) and light industrial (M1) on a lot that fronts Brady Street (the old Buick dealership). Russell Construction is the petitioner, although a Ruhl & Ruhl realtor is doing the legwork. The plan is for Russell to purchase the property, contingent on M1 zoning, then to lease it back to United Rental, itself a leaser of heavy industrial equipment. United Rental appears to be interested in the 31,000 square-foot building that comes with the property. It needs the M1 designation to store its heavy equipment, some of which is 180 feet tall (akin to an 18-story building).
The Plan & Zoning Commission approved the highly inappropriate use of storing heavy industrial equipment within a commercial neighborhood, with the condition that the front footage remain C2, and that no equipment be displayed on the property. What can the P&Z Commission be thinking, recommending industrial use of property in a clearly commercial corridor? Surrounding business owners and lessees report being misled about the proposed use so that they would not protest. They claim they were told it would be a nice development and would spur activity in the area. While true, nobody bothered to mention that the activity would be large semis driving on and off the premises, or that 18-story-tall equipment would be looming large above. It is also suspected that the zoning request was purposely reduced by 200 feet to eliminate adjacent local property owners from the legal protest boundary area. However, thanks to due diligence efforts of just such local businessmen, the true purpose behind the petition was revealed, hopefully in time to stop it. It is important to note that many of the owners surrounding the property are absentee owners, who received notification letters about the petition that didn’t explain the full scope of the proposed project. Even members of the P&Z Commission claim they didn’t get the whole story.
So whose responsibility is it to make sure this kind of ambiguity does not occur relative to land use? Did a single commissioner bother to drive out and look at the property under petition, along with the surrounding neighborhood’s present uses; or perhaps make a visit to United Rental’s website (www.unitedrentals.com) to get a handle on its product lines; or better yet, travel over to Moline to a site that United Rentals currently operates to view for themselves what resembles a large junk yard for lack of a better description? Where was the expected due diligence required by this vital commission before they so cavalierly recommended light industrial use in what is obviously a largely commercial zone? It is not consistent with any of the other adjacent uses, but then inconsistency is the name of the zoning game in Davenport.
Maybe Davenport residents should not be too surprised by this lack of process. This same P&Z Commission did not think it relevant to do a Merit & Feasibility Study as required by law for the creation of two SSMIDs for THF Realty. The Commission completely ignored their responsibility to due diligence and will not be accountable if nobody challenges it in court. But citizens are getting mighty tired of spending their own hard earned dollars to hold our elected and appointed city officials accountable to the right and lawful things to do.
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