We need your help. Our mayor has proposed purchasing 10 acres of commercial real estate to develop a mixed-use complex via a public/private partnership. On the surface, this sounds appealing. Who wouldn’t want to dream about all the possibilities and promised amenities? However, the $37 million purchase price for this “landmark” property would be only the downpayment on a yet-to-be-defined development plan at an unknown cost. Intermingled with this are strict stipulations on land use in the purchase agreement making only 25% of the property potentially tax revenue-generating to help pay off the purchase and development costs. The remainder would be non-revenue generating “public space” supported by more property tax dollars.
This is where we can use the Economic Development Commission’s (EDC) help. We need an independent assessment of this opportunity. And I believe that you are in the best position to do so. You were all appointed based on your business background, knowledge, and sound judgment Your charter even encourages you to engage in matters of your own interest for the good of the community.
Directly from our municipal code:
“10.75.030 Powers and duties.
- The commission is empowered to advise and make recommendations to the mayor and city council, and as appropriate to other boards or commissions of the city, on such matters as may be specifically referred to the commission by the mayor or city council, or on matters independently generated by the commission, related to:
- Strategies, programs or activities intended to generate economic development and consequently increase jobs and municipal revenue.”
You don’t need to wait and be asked by either the mayor or council to advise and make recommendations. You are empowered to do so!
I can think of no other matter of greater economic importance to the city than this. The ramifications to our future budgets and property taxes are huge if we get this wrong. We need to go in eyes wide open with facts and data to understand the financial risks involved.
This requires an unbiased and apolitical assessment. With this being an election year and the majority of our elected officials up for election, it is not necessarily conducive to sound decision making on any of their parts. Besides, the council will be embroiled in the budgeting process in a little over a month, leaving no bandwidth for them to do this assessment justice. And having them understand our current financial situation is part and parcel with going forward with any land purchase agreement. Will we even have the budget necessary next year to plan for this purchase?
Since neither the council nor administration has reached out asking for your assistance (to my knowledge) it is up to you to unilaterally step up and lead. You have the skills, knowledge and network that can be brought to bear on this important decision. I’m sure if you need additional help, your network would be more than willing to devote a little time to provide additional insight.
I would hope that the administration will cooperate with the EDC with this and provide the necessary insight that has already been generated to bring this idea as far as it has already come. If not, I believe that the EDC has the required resources to provide credible recommendations without them. Trust but verify.
Unfortunately, time is not on our side. Before the end of the year, we need to determine if we will put non-refundable money on the table to hold the purchase agreement price and terms and conditions.
To the mayor and council, I urge you to put on your extended agenda a placeholder to directly hear the recommendations from the EDC prior to any vote on this purchase. Doing so will speak volumes into wanting to hear from your constituency. Not doing so, well, we know what that says too.
Through this effort the EDC can demonstrate the true value of citizen volunteers. And to think of the benefit of getting a green light from the EDC in gaining public acceptance of the idea. Or are the mayor and council afraid to listen to other experts who have relevant insight and knowledge?
EDC, please step up to this calling.
— By Jim Ogonowski
Jim Ognowski lives in Edmonds.