Monday, October 1, 2007

Yet another emergency meeting

Special Economic Development Committee Meeting - 6:30 pm, Room b-20 Town Hall

Common Council Meeting, - 7pm Council Chambers

Well it looks like the Planning, Conservation and Development department has yet another late-breaking "emergency" which needs the immediate votes of the Economic Development Committee and the Common Council.

It seems the PCD is proposing an increased tax abatement for the Liberty Square project. There is an abatement already in place . The new abatement will give the developer an additional $70,000 in tax breaks over the next 5 years. To be clear, the city purchased the property for the project at around $460,000 and has already allowed tax abatements which add another $300,000 or so.

Personally, I have nothing against the additional $70,000. It's small change when considered in the effect it will have on individual taxpayers. I also don't fault the developer for pursuing the additional tax break. I would too if I were in his position.

I am incensed about the process, or lack of public transparency in the process.

It certainly is not clear to the public how the original deal was made or structured. And now, the PCD has mounted a PR campaign to convince the Economic Development Committee and the Town Council that the additional tax abatement is a "good investment" of the taxpayers money. And they are doing it at a "Special Meeting" before a vote will be taken 30 minutes later at a Common Council meeting. This is not in the public good.

Let's be clear. The property purchase and the abatement are a giveaway to a developer who declared publically that he was going to do the project with or without the city. The PCD, once again, is using the tactic of a feigned "emergency" to push a proposal through without public scrutiny. And the reason the PCD has stated the developer needs the additional funds? It seems there are gas tanks and oil traces in the soil which need to be remediated. Who could have imagined such problems at an abandoned gas station?

This is yet another example of why the offices of Planning, Conservation and Development should not be in control of one office and one director.

If you care about open government in Middletown, I encourage you to show up to the meetings tonite and voice your misgivings.

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