City Council Workshop Tonight

The aldermen resisted the temptation to cancel tonight’s meeting & instead will further discuss warehousing and other growth issues.

A Chronicle editorial today says that they should first figure out what went wrong last week that prompted Rockefeller to cancel their monster project.

It’s not a bad idea, I guess, except what do you do? Call them up? They already said they quit us because of the costs associated with the infrastructure improvements. Why not take them at their word? We just aren’t ready for a project of this scope and they eventually realized it would be their dime spent on getting us there.

The Chronicle also says this: “…DeKalb Business Center met or exceeded all of the city’s established guidelines for development in that part of the city – as city staff was careful to point out. What’s the use of all the plans – land-use plans, economic development plans, building and site design guidelines – if, when a project comes along, city officials don’t adhere to them?”

Some would differ with that point of view. It’s not consistent with our Comp Plan or econ development mission, for example, to allow another warehouse when the stated goals are diversity in growth and maintaining our Communiversity identity. The project also required a change in zoning–how is that adhering to plans? And anyway, how good a plan could it be to put something like that so close to houses?

Some might even argue that we haven’t obtained enough information to do really good planning. Is it true that only 1/3 of the Growth Summit reports were turned in? And that we have never done fiscal impact analyses on these projects to find out if they really pay off?

But look, one of the most important aspects here is that the composition of the Council changed last spring. Candidate Van Buer said we were giving away too much in these development deals and he became Mayor Van Buer. Donna Gorski is very different from her predecesoor, too. Is it any wonder that the Council needs to acknowledge and define a policy shift here? The Business Center project highlighted that need; it’s obvious that city staff and DCEDC have not adapted yet or Mr. Keating would have known up front that his proposal would be in for more scrutiny and negotiation than deals in the past.

That goes for the Chronicle, too. The final sentence of today’s editorial included this: “…find out, lest DeKalb lose out on the next major development project, not because of too many prickly questions, but because developers don’t bother to approach the city in the first place.” Besides the annoying, unnecessary bit of fear-mongering (remember, Mr. Keating bought the 343 acres of farmland for himself), the Chronicle doesn’t see what’s wrong with waiting for industry to come to us. Warehousing is the low-hanging fruit we can lazily pluck while sitting on our butts under the tree. Some of us think it’s time to climb that tree to see what else is up there.

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