Sunday, December 4, 2011

ROARING RIP OFF? Why I'm furious about this latest developer bonanza

Selling overpriced white elephants to the buyers of last resort -- public agencies  

COLUMBIA, 12/4/11  (Op-Ed) --  As a 14-year Columbia resident, taxpayer, and 20-year real estate investor who neither seeks nor gets the enormous bonanzas our good ol' boys get from taxpayers, I'm so angry I could spit about this latest round of Developer Lotto, detailed in these two stories today, which are also below: 

City Hall Heist?  Gerrymander proponents want big bucks for park land

Bait and Switch?   Scheme makes park, school land pay off BIG for developers 

City Hall proposes to purchase vacant land for an exorbitant price from St. Charles Road Development.  Columbia Public Schools' purchased land from the same developers for an even more exorbitant price. Finally, in typical fashion, the developers pay paltry property taxes on their pricey parcels 

Developer Scott Atkins
$3 million taxpayer dollars for 141 acres of vacant land in the boondocks that requires another $3 million to make ready, on land that generates only a few hundred dollars per year for the public agencies that are buying it.  I'm totally cool with making big bucks, but this is ridiculous, especially when public funds from so-called "tight budgets" are involved. 

$50,000 an acre for school land$21,000 an acre for park land $6 million in total public expenditures -- and climbing -- to buy the land and make it ready with roads, sewers, and lighting the same developers plan to use for new developments on nearby land they still own which will skyrocket in value with the new schools, park, and infrastructure.  

Parks director Mike Hood and Mayor Bob McDavid
What happened to donated land like Albert-Oakland Park?  What happened to the idea of "giving back," which all the "little people" are constantly being asked to do, but which the high-falutin' among us seem to disregard (unless they stand to gain, like volunteering for a Ward Reapportionment Committee that could have muzzled the City Council with a gerrymandering plan)? 

Citizens:  Your taxes are being thrown down a pit that never bottoms.  Your hard-earned dollars are being handed over with little thought of civic responsibility in favor of good ol' fashioned greed, via public officials who are either too dumb, too afraid, or too greedy themselves to say NO.  

Assessor Schauwecker
Wise up and realize that as these tax money grabs continue -- locally and around the nation -- your personal circumstances dwindle in direct proportion to the higher and higher amounts you are forced to pay or subsidize to people who so do NOT need the payments or subsidies it almost makes a strong-hearted person cry. 

We can have more parks, more schools, and more good things for the public if we aren't being robbed to pay for them.  $20,000 an acre and up is highway robbery, especially out in the middle of nowhere, especially with all the added expenses, especially in this economy.  

Developers:  Donate the land; discount the land; gift part of the land and take a tax write-off; watch the value of your nearby land soar.  Just don't loot the public treasury because you bought a white elephant no one in the private sector is willing or able to buy. 

TIFs, TDDs, stupefying property tax discounts, and now this.  When, I ask, are these public ripoffs going to end? 

-- Mike Martin for the Columbia Heart Beat

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